Eric Metaxas speaks at his first college commencement at my alma mater of Palm Beach Atlantic University this month. I like him a lot! He encourages the graduates to stand for their Christian beliefs!
“… not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock …” (1 Peter 5:3).
The world’s system says to be first and to use people to build your kingdom, your empire. People don’t have souls, they say, but are merely tools to help you get what you want. If people can’t help you get what you want, toss them aside as yesterday’s garbage and surround yourself with people who will help you! This was the system in the Roman world, and it’s the system that is here now!
Even James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples (along with their mother) were caught up in this, asking to have her sons sit beside Jesus in his kingdom! They wanted the positions of authority and power! Jesus set them straight:
You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you! But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).
Christ’s system is to serve, not to be served! It’s to use the power of God to build up people for God into a Kingdom of God!
Remember the man who took money so he could pray for someone? He is wanting to have an empire—not set an example! A man by the name of Sumner Wemp said, “As a Christian should be, a pastor must be!” Because whatever empire we are building will go up in smoke for certain one day. One glorious, terrifying, majestic, horrific day when why? Look at 1 Peter 5:4-5: “When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4).
“When” means that this is as certain as anything you may find yourself certain about, and even more! Pastors may believe they ultimately lead their flock, but that’s not true! Pastors are undershepherds, not chief shepherds!!! Christ will look favourably on those who have taken care of His church, His flock! To those who use His people for their own means—the day of the Lord’s return will not be welcomed!
As a final charge to everyone, I read to you verse 5:
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
Hudson Taylor was scheduled to speak at a Large Presbyterian church in Melbourne, Australia. The moderator of the service introduced the missionary in eloquent and glowing terms. He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China, and then presented him as “our illustrious guest.” Taylor stood quietly for a moment, and then opened his message by saying, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.”
The older one gets, the wiser one should get. Notice how the Apostle Paul “progressed.”
- I am the least of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:9
- I am the very least of all the saints. Ephesians 3:8
- I am the foremost of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15
Yet we would all do well to hear Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:1-12:
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
May we who are ministers here not be ones where people only hear what we preach in the pulpit, but avoid what we do outside of it!
- We must not add extra burdens and rules and traditions to the backs of our weary people—but show them the yoke of Christ whose yoke is easy and burden light!
- We must not be willing to be seen by others, and that being our only motive—our motive must be to be seen faithful to Christ and Him alone, regardless of what others may think of us.
- We must not work simply to have the seat of honor. The only seat that matters is the throne of God and His kingly rule—not ours!
- We must not love our titles (Father, Rabbi, Rev., Pastor, Dr., or even bishop). We already have a Father! We already have a teacher and instructor! We already have a Great Shepherd over the church. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice!” Are you His sheep, dear church? Do you recognize Christ’s voice?
In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like radar malfunction–or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late.
Beware of allowing personal prejudices and pride to subvert your spiritual sensibilities. The Great Shepherd calls, and soon the Great Shepherd will come. This Shepherd called the shepherd to shepherd, and to be shepherded.
Our youth pastor, Steven Diaz, baptizes one of our students today! Listen to the saints at Arapahoe Road Baptist Church cheer!
Isn’t God good? Isn’t he good to let us know the value that He has placed on us? Isn’t it wonderful that no matter who we are, male or female, that in Christ we are one in Him! (Read Part I of this topic.)
Yet, this is not all that God has to say about the matter, is it? We are equal in our souls—and this is the area to which we must hold on.
One of the issues that seems to trouble most is the idea of submission–that is, women submitting to their husbands. This is found in two different places: one in Ephesians 5:22-24 and 1 Peter 3:1-6. What’s going on here? Some believe that the word submit is actually a Greek word that means doormat. The husband can do whatever he wants, say whatever he wants and the wife has to go along. Look at Ephesians 5:22-24:
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Do you know why so many in our culture believe that? It’s because so many in our churches believe that’s what Scripture says. “Woman! The word says submit! I know I’m acting ungodly, but you still have to go along with it.” Really? Let me share with you what it says for husbands, if you’re wanting to kick the word out there for the wives.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Do you see what this is? Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. If you’re having to throw out the ‘submission’ thing in your house to your wives, dead husbands, it could be that your wife may have a hard time submitting to your leadership, whether it’s weak or overbearing. We go back to Ephesians 5:21–we are to submit to Christ and to submit and serve one another, with the wives being the helper and the husbands serving their wives as the servant leader and protector, as God laid out in Genesis 1-2.
Another area found in the NT is that of women being ‘silent in the churches.’ This is found in two places that I would like for you to look at. I would not be much of a pastor if I ignored that which the culture is coming at so hard.
First, 1 Timothy 2:9-14. Here, we see that Paul brings out the item of women’s dress. Some have taken this to mean that women should not wear jewelry or dress nicely. They are missing the point. I put it this way: “Women should be known for their godliness, not their goldliness.” We all have a responsibility not to be a stumbling block to others. In this case, women have to be careful about their appearance. Why, because we are judgmental and legalistic? No, because all of us have to help others grow in Christ, not stumble in their walk with Christ.
But then Paul really does it, doesn’t he?
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submisiveness (GG: there’s that word again). I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:11-14).
First Corinthians 14:33-35 says virtually the same thing:
As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
Boy, does this light the powder keg in our culture–and in our churches? Should we just ignore this because Paul was just talking in that time? We can’t, for two reasons.
- One, in the 1 Corinthians passage, Paul commanded it in all the churches.
- Secondly, in the 1 Timothy passage, Paul didn’t bring in the Ephesian church context, but brought in the creation order of things from Genesis 1-3. So we cannot ignore this.
What’s the takeaway? I’ll tell you right now what the takeaway for some of you is–these two passages just contradicted everything else that God said about equality. What’s equal about women being quiet?
Keep in mind that women had a new found freedom in Christianity that they didn’t in Judaism or their culture–and some were taking advantage of it. They were gossiping, being busybodies, in culture and church. So Paul reminded them that part of the creation order from the beginning was something that should not have surprised them. Women were not to teach and have authority over men. The obvious understanding here is of preaching in the assembly, the congregation, because God called men to be the spiritual authority in the house of God and in our own houses. In this context, women are not to teach/preach as an authority as a pastor or deacon.
Another obvious one that we need to deal with is this: is God saying that women cannot teach in any context of a mixed group? There seems to be a distinction between teach or to exercise authority–are these considered synonymous? Or is Paul talking about teaching, and having authority? I confess to you that I am confident of the obvious, special calling of a pastor/preacher to a congregation. I’m still sorting through this and believe God is bringing some clarity–and when he does, I will share this with our Sunday School and small group leaders first. (John Frame believes women may with caution; Denny Burk of Southern Seminary does not believe so – both of these men I respect. Jim Hamilton weighs in as well.) I owe it to them to talk to them first before I have the perception of firing a shot over the bow here. But we must look at what Scripture says, pray that we would obey what Scripture says, and ask ourselves if teaching small groups as well as preaching is an area of authority over a people? I would say a case could be made.
But why is Scripture bringing this out? To denegrate women? Because women do not have the gifts or the wherewithal to do this? I think that misses the ultimate point. Keep in mind, women have spoken up in 1 Corinthians 11 when they pray and share their testimony. I’m so thankful the Holy Spirit included that, because I would miss out on Mrs. Gloria Hughes, Mrs. Sheila, and other women praying for us–wouldn’t you? Can women speak up at a Family Conference? Yes, absolutely! No prohibition there.
But in cases of spiritual authority, this is not about denigrating women. It’s about reminding men of who they should be in Christ! God called men to lead! We must not abdicate that position in a world where women are becoming more masculine and men are becoming more feminine. Women are leading our homes and our churches because (for the most part) men are not stepping up to be who they are in Christ!
I was in Trinidad back in 2004 with my former church as we did VBS, revival services, and on top of that, I did a leadership conference at a time when I had no business doing such. I geared it on the Epistle to Titus, who addresses some areas of the leadership roles in our homes and in the house of God. There were women pastors who happened to have shown up, and I honestly had no intention of addressing it until Pastor Roddie asked the question, “Pastor Perry, could you address the issue of roles of women in the church?” So I did in regards to leadership–that God in 1 Timothy 3 called for male leadership in the church with both pastors/elders and deacons.
One woman raised her hand in regards to my comments about wives submitting to their husbands. She said, “Pastor, I have two children at home. My husband left me about four years ago, so I’m having to be father and mother.” I was stuck! I wasn’t prepared for this, but then after some conversation and others chiming in, God gave it to me: “You see,” I told them, “this is what happens when men aren’t being men and leave their responsibilities.” To that, she said “Amen! That’s right preacha!”
While she does not speak for everyone, she does speak for many–even though she didn’t speak it. She affirmed that God’s design in the right design. When men are upholding their servant leadership in the church and home, most women in Christ will gladly live under that type of leadership. And it’s only through Christ that we could ever come to that point.
It would be nice to think that your church is full of members who will take the initiative to pursue and nurture friendships with newcomers. The reason this is unlikely, however, is that most people in your church:
● Already have friends, and don’t feel a great desire for more.
● Consider themselves quite busy, with little or no time for additional activities.
● Believe their church is already friendly and it will be easy for newcomers to get connected.
● Are not aware of the importnat need for new members to make friends quickly in their new church.
… The new member who stays beyond the first year has made an average of seven new friends in the church. It is our conviction that the responsibility for initiating and nurturing these new friendships among new members rests primarily with the church. In other words, it is not the responsibility of the newcomer to take the initiative to make friends.
– Gary McIntosh and Charles Arn, What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensible Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church, p. 99.
- The quality of the workers. When Sanballat saw that they were moving ahead and rebuilding the wall, he said, “What are these feeble Jews doing?” Critics will go after your qualifications, your experience, your supposed strengths. What fuels them? Envy, jealousy, power? For Sanballat, it was anger and rage. Who knows what lies in the heart of man, except that the heart is evil and desperately wicked above all things–who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9)? The end product is discouragement.
- The quantity of the work. “Will they restore it themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that” (Neh. 4:2b)? Critics see the bigness of the task. Christ-followers see the bigness of Christ who calls to the task.
- The quality of the work. Tobiah chimes in: “Yes, what they are building, a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall” (Neh. 4:3). Self-explanatory, yes, but we see that these critics discourage by questioning the structural soundness of this wall.
- The quantity of the critics. Critics breed more critics–it’s a contagious disease, to be sure. “But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward… they were very angry … and they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and cause confusion in it” (Neh. 4:7-8). Critics come together like birds of a feather to work to undermine God’s work and will. When God continues to move regardless of their complaints, they recruit more critics to fight and confuse. They will do whatever it takes to get their way and slow down the process of the sanctifying momentum among God’s people.
- The cruelty of the critics. Nehemiah shows an enemy warned by Shemaiah that they would come to kill Nehemiah, so he should lock himself up in the Temple for protection (Neh 6:10). If they cannot frustrate the plans, they will destroy the one executing the plans–even if those plans come from God himself.
- Nehemiah prayed (4:4-5). (“Hear, O our God, for we are despised… .”)
- Nehemiah kept moving (4:6). (“So we built the wall.”)
- Nehemiah left the fighting to God (4:20). (“Our God will fight for us.”)
- Nehemiah remember the great work and wouldn’t come down (6:3). (“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”)
- Nehemiah held fast, even when death would possibly approach from his enemies (6:11). (“Should such a man as I run away?”)
- Nehemiah did his homework on his enemies (6:12-13). (“And I understood and saw that God had not sent him.”)
- Nehemiah prayed again (and again, and again, and again)(6:14). (“Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things they did.”)
- Nehemiah persevered until completion (6:15). (“So the wall was finished… .”)
- Nehemiah used it as an opportunity to teach the people to give glory to God for His blessings (Neh 8-9). (“They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave sense, so that the people understood the reading.”)
- They praised God by dedicating the wall to Him–putting into practice what they had been taught: give glory to God for His amazing grace (Nehemiah 12). (“And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”)
[Addendum: I just noticed that 9 Marks had a blog post from a few years back on the Five Points of Criticism on how to engage in godly criticism--worth reading, I might add.]
One of the gigantic questions asked of the church over the last century or more is the question of the roles of women in the home and the church. This is an issue of immense discussion, especially when you bring the Scriptures into the issue. Here are some of the questions/accusations many make against the Scriptures in regards to women:
- What does it mean that “man is to rule over the woman?”
- Why did Sarah call Abraham “her master”?
- Why did men marry numerous women, but women couldn’t marry numerous men?
- And what about all this submission business?
- And did I read somewhere that women were to be silent in the churches?
And on it goes. We have to be careful that we do not simply go by what others say about the Bible without understanding the Bible itself. In our day, the culture believes almost the polar opposite of what the Bible declares. We as the committed core already know this. We should have this settled in our hearts and minds about what the canon of Scripture and the culture of our times believe.
If we find ourselves hearing what the culture says, then we must realize two things: (1) many have not really read the Scriptures, and (2) many don’t understand the point of the Scriptures. The point of the Scriptures is to show our need for rescue, and God providing that rescue in Christ. When we understand this, then we begin to understand how God designed things for His glory and our good, and we understand that this design affects everything from the culture to the kitchen, from the cradle to the grave—then things begin to click for us. If we look to the culture to determine whether Scripture is so, we are upside down and backwards. Scripture does not bow the knee to the culture—the world bows the knee to Scripture. We say this without apology, because we know that God has spoken.
Behind the accusation is a question that all of us have: where do women fit in the economy of God?
First, recognize that men and women are equal in the sight of God.
Regardless of what you may have heard, God did make men and women equal in his sight. Let’s take time to peruse some important and clear pieces of Scripture. Turn with me to Genesis 1:26-31:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Notice from the beginning, both male and female were made in God’s image. God said, “Let them” rule over creation as those imagebearers. And both were appreciated.
If you jump ahead to Genesis 2:18, Scripture said that it is not good for man to be alone. He as are all of us was meant to be in relationship. So God paraded all the animals in front of him, and while he did name them all, Scripture says that, “for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.” Animals did not correspond to him–so God gave Adam a helper that was fit for him. Woman–made from the rib by his heart to care for, love, and provide for.
Adam was told to hold fast to His wife. Not to run over her, lord over her, or tyrannize her–but to cling to her (Genesis 2:23-25). They are equals, with both needing the other. And what did man do? He praised God for his wife. He knew what God gave him–all the joy, all the help. Think about this, everyone. Man couldn’t do it alone. We’d better understand that we are built for relationships. Men can only function well when they have the woman God gave them. Proverbs 31:28-31 is a beautiful reminder:
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.
What did Jesus say on the matter? He had no trouble sitting and talking to a Samaritan woman at a time when that was culturally frowned upon, but He spoke the gospel to her and freed her from her enslavement! John 12:1-8 shows how Jesus received the worship of a woman who was of ill-repute, but was willing to give up the most treasured possession she had in order to anoint Jesus’ head and feet–unbeknownst to her as an act of preparing him for burial!
And who showed up to the tomb first? The women.
As we move forward, look at what Paul has to say on the matter. Growing up, I heard a lot of people give Paul grief about his views of women. I would say that if you took some of Paul’s words without taking the other words he speaks and in light of all of Scripture. Take a look at a few passages here. First, Galatians 3:27-28:
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
What meanest thou this? In regards to God’s work of salvation in Christ, if we are in Christ, we are one. Under the old Law of Moses, distinctions arose between these. But now a Jew and Greek could be called ‘brother.’ Their primary identity was that of Christian–of who they are in Christ. Status? Read Philemon and see how a runaway slave would return to his master Onesimus as a brother… still in slavery, but a brother whom Paul implored to do the right thing. Gender? A Jew would pray, “I thank you Lord that I am not a Gentile dog or a woman.” Their identity was nationalistic–now their identity is sibling in Christ! Once you are baptized into Christ, you put on Christ. He’s the one to whom you belong! All those old dividing lines of demarcation are gone.
It’s a great word. You may have come to church and left with your unbelieving spouse who has stayed at home and he called you a loser and a fool for believing in Christ. You may walk away from friendships because they saw you as poor or stupid or crazy… those aren’t your ultimate identity. You may have people identify you because of your financial status, the color of your skin, your country of origin, or of the part of the country from which you hail, or yes even your gender! If you are in Christ, you belong to Christ. You are one in Christ Jesus.
Later, we shall revisit this passage because some take this to the area of roles in the church, but beware of going places that God’s Word doesn’t take you.
Look at 1 Corinthians 7:2-5:
2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Wives, your bodies belong to your husbands. But Paul goes on: husbands, your bodies belong to your wives. Equality!
Look at Ephesians 6:1-3:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise) “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
What does this say? Does this say, “Children, obey only your father?” “Honor your father?” No, obey your parents! Honor your mom and dad. Notice also the quotes. Does this passage sound familiar? From where is Paul quoting this? The Ten Commandments, and in this case from Exodus 20:12. So even in Exodus, Paul brings in the equality of the imagebearers of male and female.
Isn’t God good? Isn’t he good to let us know the value that He has placed on us? Isn’t it wonderful that no matter who we are, male or female, that in Christ we are one in Him!
Yet, this is not all that God has to say about the matter, is it? We are equal in our souls—and this is the area to which we must hold on.
(Later—maybe tomorrow, Part II: What About Those Submission and Silence Passages?)
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Comes to terms quickly” (Matthew 5:23-25a, ESV).
How do we sort through criticism? Is all criticism bad? Is it all good? Do we shrug it off? Avoid it? Quit when we receive it? Let’s critique the cause of critics and criticism today!
Some people are difficult–but in a constructive way. They challenge us in our walk with the person of Christ. So one would say that are not difficult, but their exhortations may land in a difficult manner on us. The end result, however, is being stronger in Christ.
Others are difficult in a destructive (or at least non-helpful) way. They challenge us to walk in their personal preferences. So one would say that they are difficult in that we risk working for their glory by their standard, and not for God’s.
I talk to quite a few pastor friends–and all of them (as with all people) deal with criticism. All of us at some point have been among the critics and among the critiqued. God calls us to be ones who are mature, able to discern truth from falsehood (Hebrews 5:11-14), but we must also discern the motives behind the criticisms. Are we denying self and taking up the cross and following him? Or are we exalting self, crucifying others, and following our own aims and desires and expecting others to follow suit?
Remember Thing from the Addams’ Family?
The beauty of the Body of Christ is amazing. So many different personalities and backgrounds—and God brings them all together for unity and maturity.
Do you remember the Addam’s Family? Remember Thing? Thing is a dismembered hand that was part of the family, who would move around on his ‘fingers’ and find ways to make symbols to communicate.
While Thing brought high entertainment value to the black & white TV screen, there’s nothing funny about this in the context of the church. Some want to function as a dismembered body, doing their own thing apart from the Head, who is Christ (Colossians 1:18-23). The church is the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). We are nothing without the head.
When you bring a criticism to the church about an issue, ask yourself the following questions to critique the criticism:
First, is the criticism you are bringing based on the person of Christ, or personal preference? This takes some serious prayer, but also a willingness to let others in your life who will tell it like it is. The Apostle Peter was told by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:11-14 that his actions were based on personal and cultural preference. If you are teachable (that is, you understand you are a human being and do not have it all figured out), this will be a welcomed aspect of your sanctification. If you are not teachable, always willing to teach, and seldom believe you have anything to learn from anyone else unless they have a radio ministry or have published a book, you’re headed for a fall. Your ‘Christian walk’ is all about the steps you deem fit to take–and everyone must march in lockstep.
Secondly, if this is based upon a biblical issue, have you gone directly to the person to address this, or are you simply telling everyone else… maybe even guising it as a prayer concern? (I would even recommend this even if it was based on personal preference. Who knows? The issue that is bothering you so badly may disappear when you engage that person as a person the way Christ intended, rather than a distant enemy or annoyance.) There have been times in my 20+ years of ministry when someone has come to me to complain about someone else. My first step is to ask them, “Have you gone to them to express your concerns?” Many times, the answer is, “No, I haven’t yet!” After I encourage them to go, a time later they returned with another complaint. ”Did you go and talk to them?” ”Well, no, I didn’t feel led to at the time.” So I would arrange a meeting right then, if possible–especially if it was after a worship time. We don’t wait to feel led, for God has already led with his command (Matthew 5:21-26).
Thirdly, are you actively involved in serving the church as a servant of Christ, or merely looking as a spectator or as a judge in the Olympics–a removed observer? I ask this because it’s amazing when you are involved with a group of people, you begin to see how they serve, the attitude in which they serve, and how that service is not about merely serving themselves, but Christ and others. Didn’t Christ come not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45)? When you’re not serving others, the only person that tends to matter is yourself. That’s not how God intended us to be. The approximately 60 ‘one another’ passages in the NT give this away.
Fourthly, when speaking about the issue that is bothering you, do you use your words more to criticize and gossip about that issue or to pray about that issue? Prayer is the instrument God uses to change hearts. Maybe the heart of the one that troubles you needs to change–or maybe your heart needs to change!
The path of least resistance is to complain and think only of what self wants. It’s easy to do that.
But if our critiques are based on biblical truths and biblical issues, then that is another blog post for another day, which will springboard from Ephesians 4:15. In this case, if it’s about personal preferences, then don’t raise them up to tests of faith. We are sinners–all of us. Some are in the demographic of being a sinner saved by grace. But others aren’t. We risk being very legalistic if we expect people to operate based on our Law rather than on God’s law in speaking the truth in love.
Time is too short for self to get in the way! The world needs Christ! Let not personal preference provide a stumbling block to the person and work of Christ!