Have you ever been a member of a church where all people did was fight and hate each other? Have you ever seen two factions wage ecclesiastical war against each other, while peacemakers in the middle hunker down, eager to avoid stray rounds and just escape with their lives?
No? Good for you.
The reality is, this is what some churches are like. Things usually get this bad for two reasons:
First, Christians often don’t really love each other.
This means they don’t confront one another when someone goes off the reservation into spiteful wickedness, cunning trickery, hypocrisy, jealousy or slander.
If they loved each other, they’d look out for each other. This is a symptom of a cheap, commitment-free view of covenant church membership. See, for example, this wonderful parody of the consumer approach to church membership which plagues the Western world.
Second, church leaders are sometimes not leaders at all.
Sometimes, they’re timid, afraid of conflict, cowardly and desperately hopeful that “things will just work out.” They often spiritualize their cowardice and timidity with a pious gloss of meaningless Christian-ese (e.g. “we’ll leave this to God to sort out;” “we’ll give the Spirit time to work,” “we can’t judge”). This attitude betrays not only their own immaturity as spiritual leaders (or, worse, their absolute unfitness for pastoral ministry), but their own confusion on what forgiveness actually is. Hint – it isn’t “forgive and forget. (I wrote about this in more detail in my article “Forgive and Forget? No!”).
Robert Gates, a former Secretary of Defense under both President Bush and President Obama, recently wrote a book on leadership. He cautioned, “If you don’t have the guts as the leader to make tough and timely decisions, for God’s sake, don’t take the job,” (pg. 94).
Yes, indeed. To pastors and aspiring pastors – if you don’t have the guts to make tough decisions, do something else. Anything else. For God’s sake; literally. Your indecisiveness and weakness may destroy your church. It will likely harm some of the people within your church.
Today, in Sunday School, we finished our look at 1 Peter 1:22 – 2:3. We looked at the sins of jealousy and slander, and talked about what we ought to be craving instead – Christ Himself! Rather than gorge ourselves on internal strife and malicious pettiness, we ought to be always craving the genuine, pure milk that is the eternal Son of God. He’ll grow us until He returns to deliver us. Have you actually tasted that the Lord is good (1 Peter 2:3; cf. Psalm 34:8)? Then you should want to examine your own life, and be ridding yourself of these wicked sins.
This is a powerful passage, with far-reaching implications for how to love God, how to love each other, and what a congregation is supposed to be marked by. I took four sessions to cover this passage, and particularly enjoyed the discussion this morning. I hope you’re blessed by it, too.