May 9, 2017

Respecting Leaders (May 8, internet down)

Centuries ago when Saul was still king, David had been anointed to take his place. Saul knew it and went on a mission to kill David. However, David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14) and refused to retaliate. On one occasion, he and his men were hiding in a cave when Saul and his men came into the cave. David had opportunity to strike the king down, but did not. He later said to Saul:
“Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the Lord gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’” (1 Samuel 24:11)
Fortner rightly connects this to an opposite attitude in today’s people. Instead of honoring those in positions of leadership as David did, God’s people are far too quick to pull them down, either verbally or literally, and with a great deal of disrespect, forgetting that it is God’s prerogative to put up leaders and remove leaders. The Lord may do that using public opinion, yet we need to tread carefully.

This is not to say leaders should be allowed to go against godly principles in their role. God’s Word says, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach . . . .” (1 Timothy 3:1-2)

Leadership in the church is vital. God’s Word contains many reminders of what God expects of His pastors and shepherds. Yet in those reminders, others are also exhorted about submission to them in humility and with respect:
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:1-5)
Right from the beginning of being a Christian, I was puzzled that church meetings were conducted according to a political book called “Roberts Rules of Order.” Even though we live in a democratic country, it seemed to me that the church is in a theocracy, not a democracy. We are to do things in submission to the will of God, not by ‘majority rules’ or by ‘voting’ on issues.

This way of thinking too easily leads to electing officials by popular opinion rather than seeking the will of God, with the reverse also being true — godly and sincere pastors are sometimes put out of churches for the same reason — human opinion. Those who do this need to think twice. As today’s devotional says, true pastors are not hirelings to be seated and unseated by men. God says, “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm.’ (1 Chronicles 16:22)

The Bible puts lofty standards on pastors, yet it also explains congregational responsibilities. Calling a pastor is an important decision, not to take lightly. They are to be treated as servants of the Most High God. Furthermore, we are not to bicker with one another about their value. Our role is lofty also. We are expected by God to put ourselves under the pastoral rule of that man. The Bible says:
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,  and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13)
Jesus, I am thankful for the many godly leaders You have allowed me to experience and learn from. I’m glad for the desire to respect and encourage them. You gave me leadership positions with youth and women in the church and shown me a small part of the grave responsibility of church leaders. While we are all part of the same Body and equal in Your sight, leaders are in a special position and anointed by You. I must always remember this is Your will and give myself wholeheartedly to it.

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