so i have been thinking about this quite a lot lately, especially after i received a mail immediately after my last you-got-to-be-kidding-malema post from my friend mel lovingly rebuking me or at the very least challenging me on my bash-the-leader stance [if the Bible says respect and pray for your leaders who God has putten over you…] which was really great and a whole thort in itself
[the confrontation from Mel i mean, which was completely done in love and although not necessarily what i wanted to hear – who likes to hear ‘you are the man!’ statements about being out of line – very definitely largely, if not completely, correct. Imagine if the whole church took her role of rebuke-in-love seriously, how much chaos – and some included in the role players of this note – would be avoided]
I don’t really know the answer. There are definitely some principles. And some verses from the Bible that confuse me. And so i am trying to make sense of it all. Hoping my theologically minded original-greek-of-the-word ‘flatulatolos’ friends will throw in some light (cough Sean du Toit cough!)
So here are the situations – president of the country Jacob Zuma who i believe has made some outlandish and potentially dangerous statements (both in word and action) especially with regards to Aids (as previous head of some Aids forum he stated during one scandal that he had a shower after having sex to prevent himself from getting Aids) in terms of the man-in-the-street seeing that and thinking it is truth (so potentially life threatening)
Julius Malema, head of the ANC Youth League who is in the newspapers almost daily for some or other next scandal (the latest which was allegedly – i say ‘allegedly’ because the ANC denied he sang the song after explaining why it was okay that he sang the song and despite a reporter having it on tape – singing a song containing the phrase “kill the boers, they are rapists” followed by a few unrelated incidents in the news of Afrikaans farmers – boers – being killed on their farms)
Then there are two Christian leaders – Ray Macauley and Bennie Hinn who are both very public figures with huge public ministries who apparently are both getting divorced (Ray for the second time and Bennie Hinn after apparently stating in an interview that nothing gets in the way of his ministry, not his family etc.)
And here are some verses i could find (in the original English translation of the original Greek):
‘Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake, to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.’ 1 Peter 2.13-15
‘Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith… Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage for you.’ Hebrews 13.7, 17
‘Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.’ Titus 3.1-2
‘Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so bring judgement on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. … therefore it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect, if honour, then honour.’ Romans 13.1-7
‘Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two of three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.’ 1 Timothy 5.19-20
THE DILEMMA AND SOME SCATTERED THORTS
I’m pretty sure there is another verse somewhere saying we should pray for our leaders and i know i don’t do that enough or maybe at all, often cos i’m too busy shaking my head at them or rolling my eyes. And that is not good in itself. Maybe it’s true that you get the leaders you pray for. Cos i would imagine there are probably more Christians poking fun at JZ and Malema than praying for them… or i could just be the only one. So definitely a place i need to start.
My biggest dilemma is not thinking they are worthy of respect, but then i’m not sure the Bible gives us freedom to make that call and so maybe obedience to God is a sense of being respectful and honouring despite it not being earned?
The Hebrews passage at least i would assume is speaking about spiritual leaders and it does speak about considering the outcome of their way of life and as men who must give account. Both Ray and Bennie are definitely going to be held accountable to God one day (as am I, and you!) but i do think there is a certain need for accountability to take place while here and occupying positions of authority in leadership – and there are some pretty strict guidelines for how elders and deacons ought to be and also on the topic of marriage and divorce – and so i’m not sure there is not the space to stand before them like Nathan the prophet to David and proclaim ‘you are the man’ (um and go read 2 Samuel 12 cos i’m not talking about modern day usage of the phrase ‘you’re da man!’ but the time when Nathan rebukes the king.)
I think in terms of Zuma and Malema there has to be some kind of holding to account as well – as both of them have made statements that i think could cause serious injury to people either by example or by insinuation or role-modelling and there has to be a place for us to speak into that and cast the question (and whereas i may never get a forum to publically challenge either of them on their stuff that doesn’t necessarily mean that us gossiping about it in cell is the best way either – so it can be addressed and even preached upon perhaps, but we have to be so careful of bringing it to light from a place of arrogance or pride or selfrighteousness)
There is a lot more stuff here but this is getting long and i just wanted to provoke your thorts and mine so let’s try wrap it up a little:
SOME MORE SCRIPTURES
‘Woe to you, teachers of the law, you hypocrites!… Woe to you, blind guides… Blind Pharisee… You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean… You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?…’ [Jesus to the Pharisees and teachers of the law, Matthew 23]
So Mathew 23 has this passage where Jesus just lets rip at the spiritual leaders of His day and it must be okay for Jesus was without sin. So one of the principles in this dilemma is possibly that respect/honour your leaders does not mean that there is never a time to call them on stuff (and this was a public exchange i imagine!) when led by God. And that is some pretty strong language Jesus uses. John the Baptist was put into prison for (publically?) accusing Herod (political leader) of outlandish sin.
And so my point is there may be a time or a place with political and spiritual leaders for us to call them on stuff but it has to be very much led by the Holy Spirit and we have to be completely in touch with God’s heart in the matter. But I think a good place is to look at what is written directly after the Romans passage i quoted earlier:
‘Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.’ Romans 13.8
Greatest commandment? Love God, love people (Matthew 22) and when i was chatting to tbV about this last nite that is one of the things that came out strongly. What is the fruit of our conversation when we are discussing these things – with each other? Publically on blogs and wall notes? Is it being motivated by love for the person or even the audience/followers of the person or is it simply us trying to get a laugh or working from our place of pride/self-righteousness/smugness/gossip/slander?
The bottom line for me is i definitely need to be praying more for my leaders, both politically and in terms of those who lead spiritually. How can i expect them to have a hope of leading effectively if i haven’t at least got their back. They will all stand before God one day and they will be accountable to Him for every single thing they have done or failed to do. I will stand before God and explain to Him why mocking/pointing/laughing/sharing-for-prayering etc was more important than getting behind, uplifting, praying for, encouraging…