Have you ever had somebody recount a laundry list of your faults?
I’ve had this happen to me … and it’s devastating.
Political candidates from both parties use laundry lists against their opponents during election season.
Spouses pull out laundry lists when they’re frustrated with each other.
Employers compile laundry lists when they’re ready to let an employee go.
But most of the time, laundry lists aren’t just unjust … they’re downright evil.
Why do I say this?
This morning, I read Mark 15:2-4 in The Message:
Pilate asked him, “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?” He answered, “If you say so.” The high priests let loose a barrage of accusations.
Pilate asked again, “Aren’t you going to answer anything? That’s quite a list of accusations.” Still, he said nothing.
When pastors are under attack, their opponents compile lists of their “offenses,” just like the Jewish leaders did with Jesus.
Let me make four observations about such lists:
First, laundry lists are usually desperate attempts to end a relationship.
During my second pastorate, a group of seniors did not like the changes that the board and I were making – especially concerning music.
Since they didn’t want to leave the church, they sat in a room and compiled a list of all my faults – including those of my wife and children, too.
Then they presented their list to two board members, as if to say, “Look at this list! He needs to go!”
That’s what the high priests did to Jesus.
The list compilers don’t want to talk things out … or negotiate … or reconcile in any way.
They want the object of their scorn to be (a) defeated, (b) removed, or (c) executed.
There’s just one problem:
Second, laundry lists rarely contain any impeachable offenses.
Heresy is an impeachable offense for a pastor. So is sexual immorality … and felonious behavior … and even slothfulness.
If someone’s opponents have evidence of an impeachable offense, they don’t need a laundry list.
They only need the laundry list when they don’t have an impeachable offense … which tells us something.
If a pastor preaches that Jesus isn’t God … or he’s caught in a motel with his pants down … who cares if he once became upset at a staff meeting?
When the seniors created their laundry list against me, one of their charges was that I didn’t make the wife of the church drummer lengthen her dresses … as if that was my role.
And all their “charges” were that trivial … which is why the board defended me and the seniors eventually left the church.
Third, laundry lists are simply unfair.
I know someone who once worked for a major Christian organization. One day, his supervisor told him that he was doing 13 things wrong.
How could my friend possibly make changes in 13 areas at once?
He couldn’t … and was dismissed soon afterward.
That’s lazy … even angry … supervision.
Most people can’t emotionally handle having someone point out more than one offense at the same time … much less 13 … and that goes for children, husbands, and pastors.
(And students: remember when your teacher gave you back your term paper and it was full of red marks?)
The biblical principle is to bring up offenses as they arise. Ephesians 4:26-27 says:
“In your anger do not sin”; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”
If I’m angry with you for something you did, but I hoard your offense rather than speak to you about it, whose fault is that?
And if you continue to commit offenses, but I never say or do anything about them, whose fault is that ?
And if I come to you one day … and bitterly hurl your offenses at you … and you don’t take it kindly … whose fault is that?
Christians would have far less conflict in their homes, workplaces, and churches if we’d just take Ephesians 4:26-27 to heart.
And when we don’t, guess who gains a foothold in our lives?
Finally, laundry lists tend to indict their creators.
In Mark’s account, Jesus wasn’t guilty of any wrongdoing, while His enemies sought to cover up their plotting by trumping up charges.
The list makers intended to throw the spotlight onto a person they despised, but instead, they were revealed as being hypercritical, petty, and vindictive.
Their “barrage of accusations” really stood as an implicit confession:
“We don’t like Jesus one bit. We don’t like His popularity … or His love for sinners … or His novel interpretations of Scripture … or His refusal to obey us … or the authority He’s been acquiring.”
And on and on and on.
Their laundry list was really about one thing: they hated Jesus.
And most of the time, those who use such lists expose their own hatred.
A church leader once came to me with a laundry list of accusations. When he was done, I asked him, “So what you’re saying is that you’ve hated me all this time?”
He coyly admitted as much.
Do you know how it feels to work alongside someone that hates you … especially in a church?
It’s absolutely devastating.
If he had just spoken with me when his feelings first started surfacing, maybe we could have worked things out.
But when he harbored anger … without my knowledge … it ate him alive … and he poured it all out on me.
Then he felt better … and I felt like harming myself.
That relationship ended, as do most relationships where one person nails the target of their wrath with a laundry list of their faults.
If you want to get along with your family and friends, deal with issues as they arise … or take your pain to God in prayer.
Because once you toss a “barrage of accusations” at someone, it won’t be long before somebody gets crucified.