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Posts Tagged ‘Ephesians 4:26-27’

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?

MINE!

And if you continue to commit offenses, but I never say or do anything about them, whose fault is that ?

MINE!

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?

MINE!

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?

Satan.

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.

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Have you ever had someone come up to you and tell you how upset they’ve been with you because you once wronged them?

One afternoon when I was in college, I was walking toward my car when someone called out my name.  I turned around to see a young woman I had known for several years at church.

She wanted me to know that she had been upset with me for a long time because she liked me and I hadn’t reciprocated the way she wished.

She asked me to forgive her for all the animosity she held toward me.  I told her I forgave her … she felt much better … but I don’t ever remember seeing her again.

Did I need to know how angry she had been with me?

I bring this up because some Christians carry grudges for months … if not years … against other Christians … especially against their pastors.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:26-27: “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.”

At least four principles about grudge-holding arise out of this text:

First, we all feel angry when we sense we’ve been violated.

It’s not a sin to feel anger.  For example, I instinctively feel angry when another driver tailgates my vehicle on the freeway.

Years ago, I didn’t always handle such situations with maturity … but I’ve learned how to control my anger much better … although I still have my moments.

Although our anger antenna isn’t infallible, that initial dose of anger may be God’s way of saying, “You’ve just been violated.  Don’t make it worse.”

There’s nothing sinful about feeling angry … Paul says so himself … but we shouldn’t nurse our anger.

We need to learn how to release it as soon as possible … and most of us acquire this skill as we mature.

Second, we need to resolve our anger as soon as possible.  

Many years ago, I said something in a sermon that ticked off a particular woman.  After the service, she and her husband vented to another couple, and they immediately left the church.

Why involve that couple when the woman was upset with me?

She eventually did speak with me about the issue, but by that time, the couple was long gone.

Most church conflicts and forced pastoral terminations occur because people spread their personal animosity toward their pastor to others.

Why?

Because they lack the courage to speak with their pastor themselves, they search for allies, hoping that (a) someone else will carry their offense, and (b) someone else will deal with the pastor so they won’t have to.

But this kind of thinking is counterproductive.

If you’re angry with your pastor, then (a) speak to him directly, or (b) forgive him privately … and let it go.

Third, deal with offenses as they arise.

In his book Love in Hard Places, theologian D. A. Carson tells about the time a Christian friend told Carson that he wanted a private word with him because Carson had offended him.

So the two of them arranged a meeting, and Carson’s friend related an incident that had happened twenty-one years earlier.  Carson and his friend were having a theological discussion and his friend quoted a few words from an author who had written in French.  Because Carson grew up speaking French, Carson repeated the French words after his friend because he was unconsciously correcting his pronunciation.

Carson’s friend didn’t say anything at the time, but several decades later, he told Carson, “I want you to know, Don, that I have not spoken another word of French from that day to this.”  Carson apologized for offending his friend, but upon later reflection, Carson felt “there was something profoundly evil about nurturing a resentment of this order for twenty-one years.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

I once had a staff member come to me and share a list of purported offenses I had committed against him.  The list went on and on.  Finally, I stopped him and asked, “So what you’re telling me is that you’ve hated me all this time?”  His reply: “Until recently.”

Here I was … meeting with him regularly … assuming everything was all right between us … trusting him as a ministry colleague … but all the while, he had been collecting grievances against me.

After he dumped his load on me, he felt better, but I plunged into depression.  I started to wonder, “How many other people in this church feel the same way about me?”

Paul’s admonition is to resolve your anger before the sun goes down … to address the issue at your first opportunity … to repair your relationship as soon as possible … but not to wait 17 months, as that staff member did.

That incident still bothers me to this day.

Finally, unresolved anger gives Satan church entry.

Let’s assume that Satan assigns a demon to every local church.  It’s that demon’s charter to use whatever means are necessary to destroy that church.

So that demon begins to probe the hearts of church leaders … trying to find those who are bitter … especially against their pastor.

And when the demon finds such an individual, he coaxes that person to tell others about his or her anger.

I have a pastor friend who served a church for several years, but nothing he was trying was working.

People began making charges against the pastor … only they didn’t tell the pastor directly.

So a consultant was called to the church to investigate.

One of the few charges against the pastor involved a tiny incident that had happened two years before at a church event.

When the incident was brought to the pastor’s attention, he couldn’t recall it at all.

If I had been the consultant, I would have thrown out the charge at that point.  A minor incident from two years before shouldn’t have any bearing on a pastor’s present status.

But it did … and was a contributing factor that led to the pastor’s eventual removal.

But evidently no one said to the accuser, “How could you nurse that grudge for so long?”

There should be a statute of limitations on the offenses Christians commit against each other.

For example, in my state, the statute of limitations for:

*general assault or battery is two years.

*medical malpractice or fraud is three years.

*breach of a written contract is four years.

The less serious an offense, the shorter the statute of limitations should last.  The more serious an offense, the longer the statute of limitations should last.

And yet when it comes to pastors, small incidents have a way of being magnified into spiritual and moral felonies … and this does not honor God or grow churches.

If you still nurse a grudge toward a pastor from your past, I encourage you to do one of two things:

*Either forgive the pastor unilaterally and let the incident go, or …

*Contact the pastor directly and try to reconcile your relationship.

Why do you think so many Christians nurse grudges against their pastors?

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