Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Treating the Leaders

Ever since I joined the church 24 years ago I have heard of people dissatisfied with the leadership of the Church. You can imagine that during these years, I have also heard my share of scandals. The examples are many: adultery, homosexuality, fornication, embezzlement, and apostasy. All this combined with poor decisions on the part of leadership, can make anyone distrustful, angry and cynical . The fact that church leadership experiences collective negative thinking like this is sad, unfortunate, and disturbing. Doesn't God say that He appoints the leaders? Has He made poor choices throughout history? One thing is for certain, the church’s leaders are not perfect. They often fail. This shines the light on what the Bible says about our human nature, which is, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” Rom 3:10.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that in my 24 years in the church,
the times when someone suggested praying for our leadership as we “discuss” their problems has been far and in between. (I have to confess it was not I making the suggestion.) When the suggestion came, we sheepishly agreed that it would be the right thing to do. However, not one of us offered to do it right then. We shamefully enjoyed gossiping about the various leaders throughout the world-wide church. We did it in anger and contempt. In fact, we bore false witness of our brethren. In letting our anger loose through gossip, in slandering others, we murder them in our hearts. Often, gossiping is a form of revenge. So of course it means we are being unforgiving of our "neighbor's" failings. By gossiping we smear others' characters, destroy their reputations, and generally, behave as if ours was above reproach. Forgetting that, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” Matthew 7:2.

The Bible is clear that we are to trust the leaders, submit to them, as well as support and encourage them -- so far as they follow God’s will. If they sin, we are to prayerfully bring the issue to their attention. If that fails, we are to go with 2 or more witnesses to engage in resolving the conflict as described in Matthew 18. If all else fails, we are reminded to keep the leader in prayer. Paul makes this request in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.” His request reminds us that praying for them, is something we should have been doing all along. Had we been interceding on their behalf, perhaps they would not have failed in serving. Sister White has this to say about praying for others: those whom we pray for can reject our counsel, and our actions of love may fail to reach them, but not so our prayers. Our prayers can reach their heart even if they do not know we are praying for them.

In human terms David had reasons to kill King Saul. After all, Saul attempted to take his life. Thus David could have retaliated, and It would have been considered self-defense. Yet, David never raised his hand to kill Saul. During one opportunity when the King slept in a cave in the wilderness of Engedi, David actually spared his life. At sunrise David yelled to him from a distance,

1 Sam. 24:10 Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine hand in the cave: and bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD's anointed.
1 Sam. 24:11 Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not,know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it.
1 Sam. 24:12 The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.

David was aware of Saul’s flaws. David felt sorrowful regarding Saul's decisions,
knowing that it would lead him to eternal condemnation. We too can be sorrowful for the course the church’s leadership is taking, the decisions that are made, as well as for the leadership itself. Yes, they are faulty. But, they are God’s appointed leaders, whether we like it or not. God has a purpose and a plan for these brothers and sisters in the positions they hold, and it is not likely we know what that is. What we can do for them is to pray. Intercessory prayer will change our attitudes, and perhaps even their actions.

Sure, this goes against our sinful nature. Sure we'd still like to gossip about them, but let's let the love of God constrain us; for in God, all things are possible. Through His indwelling Holy Spirit, God has convicted us of our sin of murmuring against His leaders. He will enable us to confess, and will give
us the gift of repentance for our sinful attitudes and behavior. God will forgive us if we but ask. Then He will empower us, to forgive the Church’s leadership and to pray for them. Will you accept God’s invitation?

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