Christian leaders must lead – or else stop pretending to be leaders

From a recent Facebook discussion:

‘What my friends encountered was that their church had some members really willing to move forward with things like gay marriage, and others threatening to leave if this happened. The church leader expressed despair at the position, because they understood a vital part of their work to be keeping the church community together, and so were stuck between a rock and a hard place.’

Mt 23:

‘Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you”’

Mt 21:

‘Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”

They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’—we are afraid of the people, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”

So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

Then he said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’

When you stick these two passages together we have a problem: Jesus tells his followers to do something – but has refused to do it Himself. So is Jesus a hypocrite? That seems unlikely – but we do need to provide an alternative answer. My solution has some rather radical implications – and I don’t think church leaders are going to like it.

Jesus has commanded us to ‘do everything they tell you’ because ‘sit in Moses’ seat’. Yet he refuses to do what some who apparently sits in Moses’ seat tells him to do. Therefore in Jesus’ eyes the people asking the question don’t sit in Moses’ seat. How does Jesus demonstrate that? By getting them to duck a politically charged question about John’s ministry. On the basis of that refusal, Jesus refuses to obey their instruction to tell them ‘By what authority…’. Therefore their refusal to answer is a resignation of their status; they are no longer sitting in Moses’ seat and therefore their instructions may be ignored.

The implication seems clear: if a church leader is unwilling to express their opinion of a hot topic of the day, then that person may be safely ignored as a church leader. They deserve only pity – because they have set themselves up to be ‘judged more severely’ and demonstrably failed in their responsibilities. So when your church leader ducks your question on the gay issue, or merely shows by their inaction that they don’t have a view, your reason for leaving that church is now established; be very sure that you should stay if you do.

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