While preparing for the ministry, I attended a very strict legalistic Christian college. While there, I agreed to work as a security guard in their extensive art gallery. When I was hired, I requested Sundays off, stating that it was my understanding from Scripture that I should not work on Sundays. The art gallery was the pet project of the chancellor. When he heard about my request, he became extremely angry and nearly had me kicked out of school. I could hardly believe this treatment from fellow Christians, especially since I was respectful, up-front in my request and complied with what at the time I believed was biblically correct.
The Apostle Paul’s usual approach was to reason, instruct, and even beg believers to rise to a standard worthy of their Savior. Even though he had exclusive, unique apostolic authority, he normally dealt with the saints in tenderness. Because he did not view himself as a spiritual dictator, he stated his perspective this way: “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (II Corinthians 1:24). He dealt with them in humility, equality, tenderness, and liberty. What a contrast to the false teachers who were being abusive toward the believers in the church at Corinth. Paul told them: “For ye suffer fools gladly
… For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face” (II Corinthians 11:19-20). These believers were allowing others to enslave them with legalism, consume their assets, steal their liberty in Christ, lord a false authority over them, and be physically abusive. The conduct of these false teachers resembles the incorrect approach of denominations, synods, and the pope, who seek to establish spiritual dominion over people today. It is one thing to lead, encourage, or help others in their Christian lives, but it is simply wrong to abusively lord one’s authority over another. Doing so leads to error, pride, gullible compliance, and a host of other things that do not honor the Lord.
If you are a leader in the Lord’s work, we urge you to be careful to deal with others in humility and seek to be a helper of other believers’ joy. We encourage all others to stand fast in our liberty from any abusive religious hierarchy.
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