Putting Away Childish Things Pt 6: Love does not retaliate

If I was to name the most insidious and tolerated form of childish behavior in church leadership, it would be retaliation.  Retaliation over big things, retaliation over small things, and yet in I Cor 13 we are admonished that “Love endures all.”

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Over the last few years, I have been asked to take a place in a number of online ministries but each time I have said no for one main reason — I still have a problem being challenged, and until that is no longer the case, until it is safe for someone to oppose and attack me without my being tempted to retaliate, I am not willing to take on any form of leadership within the Body.  Unfortunately, the desire to lead and the drive to be in charge has led too many immature people into positions where they had too much control over the lives of others.  Too much responsibility was snatched up before they developed into what I see as the embodiment of “enduring love.”

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Enduring love – Love that is able to endure real and perceived threats to ones own self without succumbing to the temptation to retaliate, to lash out, or to destroy – either openly or in secret or through a combination of the two.

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Enduring love is difficult.  Enduring love, at the shallowest level, requires that we learn to deal with people’s quirks in a patient, compassionate way.  At the highest level it requires a person to be so dead to their flesh that they can go to their own deaths silently while genuinely praying for those leading them to the gallows.

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I have been a believer for almost 16 years now, and I have seen the leadership defy the call to this sort of love too many times — oftentimes with the full support of their flocks. Some preachers are actually so volatile that they will lash out violently as soon as they even think they are being disagreed with.  Others will quietly listen to someone privately relate their disagreement before telling them why it will not be tolerated, and sometimes even punishing them privately as a deterrent against ever voicing their misgivings again.  There are those who will listen in private, thank the person for coming to them with their concerns, and then go straight to the phone, internet and pulpit to retaliate against an “anonymous attacker.”  To be honest, I am not nearly as concerned with the first two, because they are far more honest – and when confronted with that sort of person we are always able to just get up and leave once we have seen the person for what they are.  But the third situation is so widespread — and more disturbingly, it is tolerated and even enjoyed by the congregation.  It is one thing to be slammed privately by a person, quite another thing when they are given approval by your own brothers and sisters.

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Retaliation from leadership creates an infectious atmosphere.  How do you tell your flock not to retaliate, when your ministry is built upon it?  How do you put an end to the infighting and stop the implosion of your ministry when you are doing from the pulpit and your office what the troublemakers in the church always resort to? Demonizing those who disagree while gathering allies.  And more importantly, why do we as a Body tolerate it so easily?  Disturbingly, why do so many of us enjoy hearing “those people” get preached about from the pulpit?  Why doesn’t the gossip bother us?  Why doesn’t the betrayal distress us enough to say, “No more!”  Why do we assume that anyone deserves to be blasted from the pulpit?  When was the last time someone rose up and asked, “Are they in rebellion to God, have you gone to them with witnesses present before presenting this to us?  Where are your witnesses?  Where is your evidence?”

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The leadership sets the tone for the Body, and for how the Body will behave.  I don’t like that it’s true, but it is true nonetheless.  We should be following Messiah and doing as He did.  We should be able to stand quietly as our enemies spit in our face, and some of us do — only to resort to spitting in their face publicly later on, on a much grander scale.

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But love endures.  Love endures all, without lashing out in a deceptive manner.  Just because we don’t name the person who did something to us, doesn’t make our public attack of them any better — it just makes it more difficult for them to set the record straight if we have been misinformed or straight out dishonest.  Too much of the leadership and loyalty in the Body of Messiah is maintained through treachery.  And perhaps maybe when we see it, it is just easier to assume that the person being treacherous is actually justified, and that their behavior is not really fleshy but righteous.  But when I see a person in the pulpit making unprovable accusations, waging an anonymous war, or when I get a call from someone telling me how dangerous someone in their flock is – I have a choice to make.  I can tolerate it, or I can refuse to tolerate it.  Over the past 16 years, I have tried to become more diligent about spotting the warning signs and walking away.  I won’t pay someone to preach against others from the pulpit – and I don’t need their teachings that badly.  No one is interesting enough for me to sit by quietly while the character of my King is being misrepresented.

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People who grew up in dysfunctional households often talk about how their mindsets were warped by the adamant belief that the abuser in the house must be protected and coddled at all costs. It is a trained behavior, to placate and make the path straight for the very person whose volatility is destroying the path for others.  Part of leaving that abuse mindset is the realization that it is the victims of the abuser that need protected, and that it was never logical to protect the person whose behavior was abusive.  Little children were not created for the purpose of protecting their parents, the flock does not exist to take care of the shepherd, and the Body does not exist to take care of the leadership.  Those who would be greatest must do so from a position of service, not from an attitude of entitlement, or with the expectation of being treated with kid gloves.  The early church leadership was sometimes persecuted by those on the inside, and killed by those on the outside.  That has to be the expectation of leadership – not the fear which drives it into worldly abusive tactics.

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We are not called to survival or to the growth of our ministry, we are called to love. Love God. Love our neighbors. Love endures.  We need to make sure that we understand this before we stand behind a pulpit, even if mature behavior has never been modeled for us by anyone other than Yeshua and the apostles. Love requires a paradigm shift. Once we are on the “top” our egos must take the lowest place at the table. Retaliation has no place in the Body of Messiah.

retaliation

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2 Comments


  1. Tyler, this is soooo good! I want to shout! Especially the part about the anonymous accusations. I have seen so much of this and so much treachery. All of my pain led to study and study led to a book called Queen Jezebel. I spent years praying for understanding this basic flaw in the body of Messiah. I have come to believe it is not the body of Messiah at all, but the head/authority is none other than the high ruling spirit. Flesh manifests itself in many ways, but this…this is the work of the enemy that is masqueraded as many things it is not. I have heard it called love, I have heard it called ‘truth’, I have heard it called many things to justify. So blessed by your blog and your posts, not one of them goes unread.

    Reply

    1. I agree Darlene, I think we individually show who our head is through our actions. Like our earthly bodies, which cannot do anything without the permission of the brain, the Body shows who she belongs to by who is calling the shots in her actions!

      Reply

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