Christianity -- Christian Living/God's Hand on Earth
What do you do when your faced with the issue of Gods will or The Churches will. I mean at this day and age the Church can be a pretty powerful presence, so powerful in fact that they may start to act independently from God's will. This may be consciously or unconscouslly, because power can corrupt anybody. So what would you advise to someone who seems to have the will of the church confused with the will of God. What would you tell someone with issues that have more to do with the Church than with God. And how would you advise someone to deal with people that start to use God as a tool for there own will. I mean just because God implies that we control ourselves, does that mean that people should use the "God Franchise ", as a tool to control other people. Isn't that what happen during the slave trade. Was the slave trade Gods will or The Churches/ Peoples will at that time. How can you be support bondage of any kind and say thats Gods will. How would you deal will somebody that would overstep there boundaries almost to the point on slavery and have the nerve to call it God's will.
Thank you so much, Toledo, for this question! Wow, I must say this ranks right up there with the hardest questions I've ever received. You're right: power can corrupt anybody and the Church is no exception.
Thereís actually a scene in the Bible that depicts the very thing youíre talking about. It happened among two church leaders who were both widely respected and powerful. Peter and Paul. Hereís what the Bible says (and then Iíll separate out the action items for you)
Galatians 2:1 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. 2 I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. 4 This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. 6 As for those who seemed to be important-- whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance-- those men added nothing to my message. 7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. 8 For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. 9 James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. 10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. 11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. 14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? 15 "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. 17 "If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19 For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
So here are the relevant points:
(1) Paul met privately with the church leaders, taking both Barnabas and Titus as witnesses. Thatís the biblical way to address items so that this Scripture is obeyed: 1 Timothy 5:19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.
(2) Paul presented what the Bible teaches so that he could humbly point out what he was teaching and lay the groundwork through appropriate channels of human authority. In order to accuse Peter, Paul needed to have the authority of the elders behind him.
(3) Paul accepted that different members of the body of Christ have different functions, even among leaders. Peter had a ministry to the Jews. Paul to the Gentiles. Both ministries were good so long as both followed the truth of the Gospel.
(4) Once Paul had affirmation that his ministry was God-fearing, above board, and beyond reproach, he had the standing to confront Peter when Peter came to Antioch.
(5) The confrontation was not on personalities or on whose ministry was better or more important. The point of confrontation involved the truth of what Scripture says. It applied to both Paulís and Peterís ministries. The point of dispute was freedom in Christ versus slavery to the Jewish customs. Must Gentiles become Jewish or has God expanded the circle of the Church to accept Gentiles by His grace through their faith in Him?
So then Iíd pray about whether the Church is doing something that God considers an unnecessary aside (what color carpet, chairs or pews, hymnals or words on a screen, etc) or is it something inherent in the Gospel that God cares very much about?
Regarding the slave trade, your question is very appropriate. What was the Churchís role in it? The important context is that slavery pre-existed the Ten Commandments. Abram and Sarai had an Egyptian slave woman named Hagar. Sheís called a maidservant, but she was a slave. Slavery was the norm in the Ancient Near East.
In Leviticus 25:39-54, the Year of Jubilee was set aside for return of property (including slaves). In a world after the fall of man, our rebellion continued and God can use the evils we bring upon this world for His good purposes. God recognized the evils of American slavery, but He gave the ultimate freedom to many American slaves in the form of the Gospel they may never have heard in the African countries from which they came. Slavery? (Not good) Gospel freedom (eternally good!).
The Year of Jubilee from Lev 25 and the instructions (regarding people who sold themselves into slavery and slaves acquired from other nations)--all this was designed to show how even in a world in which slavery was the norm, God had standards for how they were to be treated by His people. Because the Israelites were enslaved and mistreated for 400 years (Genesis 15:13) and then came the Exodus by Godís grace.
So slavery continued all the way until the Church (in England and in the US) began the abolitionist movement. In some cultures, slavery still exists even today, but thankfully those Christians emphasizing the biblical truths prevailed in the modern world and the Scriptures which appear to endorse slavery were tied to their historical context and not considered a universal standard anymore. It is the Church that ended slavery in England and the US.
How do we deal with those who misuse Christian authority and try to make slaves out of freemen and free women? The way Paul did. Get your Scriptural foundation assembled. Find two like-minded people who can point only to Godís word to join you. Pray, pray, and pray! Meet with those who are not following the Word. Prepare for being admonished since itís been my experience that people who are doing wrong in the Church and who know it, wonít give it up without a fight. Sin is a stubborn thing. And people hell-bent on doing wrong are more likely to try to prove that right is wrong and wrong is right.
Because youíre presumably dealing with leadership, you can skip the individual--fellow believer--confrontation Jesus commands in Matthew 18:15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.Ē And the biblical way for dealing with leaders is:
1 Timothy 5: 17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." 19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. 20 Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
It is not an easy road. Itís hard to examine my own heart to make sure I donít have pride getting the way and committing the same sin, seeing the same speck/plank in someoneís eye that I have in my own. Once my motives are Gospel-only and purity of the Church only, then I pray and let God give me the opening if I am the one to deal with it. God cares more about the purity of His Church than even you or I do. He seeks brave souls devoted to Him to do the nasty work, but important work, of holding leaders accountable.
I hope this helps. If youíd like to ask a follow-up, please feel free. If youíd find help in moving the question privately, you can initiate a new question clicking the Private box or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish you the best of success as you navigate this difficult road. I will be praying for you.
Sincerely yours, in Christ, Barbara