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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Church Politics 101.4: Don't Hit Back

by Alexander Butler
Church Politics 101.4: Don't Hit Back
Read: Romans 12:9-20

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. - Romans 12:14

“That seems a bit vindictive, Doug,” said Pastor Chuck after reading a letter I intended to mail to a member of the choir.

Chuck has seen more than his fare share of church politics over his few decades as a senior pastor, yet he remains one of the best loved pastors in the Bay area. In this case, I was on staff at his church as the Worship Arts Director, and he was pointing to a line on the page that I knew reflected my hidden anger toward this fellow in the choir.

This guy deserved to be put in his place. He was a chronic complainer, seldom showed up for practice, and walked out on a major Easter production because his chair wasn’t in place. Of course I pointed all this out to Chuck, who simply leaned back in his chair and said, “Doug, God will correct this man if He thinks it best. You just love him.” It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, but I knew Chuck was right. So, I removed the sarcastic line and mailed the letter. Church Politics 101: Don’t Hit Back

This passage in Romans stands in direct contrast to worldly wisdom. We’ve all heard the saying, “I don’t get mad I get even”, but here God is telling us to let Him get even. That He’ll actually take vengeance on our behalf if that is indeed what needs to be done. But, then He goes one step farther and says, “You just love them. Buy them a sandwich if they’re hungry and give them a drink if they’re thirsty. Love them with actions, not just words.” That’s not easy. That’s gotta be a God thing. But it works. Truth always does.

The man in the choir eventually left the church and blamed it all on me and my attitude. Brother Chuck knew it was bothering me and took me aside to talk about it. He said the man was a big NASCAR fan and was simply looking for an excuse not to come to church on Sundays so that he could watch the races with his buds at the pub. Chuck knew this, yet he continued to minister to this man and his family even after they left the church.

A few years later I ran into the former church choir member at a restaurant. I could tell he was trying not to make eye contact, so, I walked up to him, tapped him on the shoulder, and when he turned around to look at me, gave him a big bear hug (he was a big guy). We small talked for a few minutes and then walked outside where it was easier to hear. He began to tell me about some serious issues he was experiencing. Then, in the middle of his story he looked me directly in the eyes and said, “Brother Doug, I’m sorry.” I hugged him again and said, “I love you, bro, and really meant it.” We talked a few more minutes and his party was called for their table. That’s the last time I saw him. I was glad we tied things up.

Here're a few things I learned from the experience: First, I don’t think that the chance encounter at the restaraunt would’ve been as positive without my deleting the line in that letter. Second, it’s hard to hold a grudge when God empowers us to love. Finally, I certainly don’t think I could’ve hugged him if I’d already hit him.

So here's the first lesson in Church Politics 101, Point 1:
Don’t hit back; let God judge – you love.

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