Servants, Not Slaves
I’m not going to mince words because too often I have seen churches, committees and departments run like miniature dictatorships with the leader(s) making unfair demands of skill and/or time under the premise of “service to God.”
Regardless of whether of your position, we are all called to treat each other with love, compassion, grace, mercy and kindness. As the Bible says in Matthew 7:15-20, “…every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” NKJV
No position within a church should be above reproach because those positions are all occupied by fallible humans and as such, we should all be held accountable by our brothers and sisters.
We are called to be like Jesus Christ and to love one another. Reading through many of Paul’s letters to the various churches reveals that he is not afraid to call them out for behaviors that are wrong. Pastors making insane demands on volunteer tech crews, department leaders who treat their assistants like dirt, committee members who secretly (or openly) speak daggers to their fellow man; these are not healthy behaviors and should not be allowed in the church.
There is a Biblical guide to dealing with those that are in the wrong, outlined in Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you be tempted.” ESV In Matthew 18:15-17, we are given a step-by-step process for dealing with those that do wrong. However, if the person will not listen or agree to correct their behavior, then the Bible does take a pretty clear stand on the next step in the process.
I urge all of us to remember that anger and its accompanying emotions are based largely on fear, so when dealing with someone who hurts others with their words and actions, ask yourself what they are afraid of. We must learn to look past the negative behavior and look into the heart and soul.
For those of us who inflict pain on a regular basis with our words and/or actions: if we are to be followers of Jesus, than we must let go of those things in our hearts and in our lives that cause us to treat others, and ourselves, badly. How? It will be different for each person but perhaps therapy, or the ongoing counsel of a mentor or close group of friends but in all things, walk with God as He will never lead you astray.
In the end, we are all human and while we must be gracious and merciful to those that treat us badly, we do not have to be slaves and take the abuse without recourse. But let’s work hard to make sure we are reaching out in love, and not anger or out of negative emotion. We are called to be servants, not slaves. We can reach out in love and compassion, but with firmness to establish healthy boundaries. There is nothing wrong with telling another person that unhealthy behavior towards others is exactly that, unhealthy; but let’s go beyond that to listen to their life story and show them the love of Christ; after all, you just might be the first person who truly has.
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