Wrapped up in every slander is an opportunity to cultivate spiritual maturity in leadership.
Have you ever felt attacked as a church leader? Surely every leader has been unfairly injured, unexpectedly pounced on, or had their best efforts to help just plain disregarded. A few years ago I found a little black cat clinging to life in the middle of winter. He was sitting outside my office with a paw frozen to a patch of ice with open wounds meowing as if to say “please, please help me.”
My secretary and I took him in the church and she gave him entire stick of butter. It was all that we could find to feed him and gladly ate every bit of it. She asked if I was going to keep him for the kids. Just as I looked at him and said “I don’t even like cats” he began to purr and rub up against my hand, forcing me to pet him. We gently loved him to nourish the cat back to health.
Still, fluffy had spent the better part of his life unhealthy and unloved. He didn’t like to be touched. He had no knowledge of how to receive love and affection. I still bear a scar that he gave me while making a futile attempt to brush his tangled hair. It is to me a constant reminder that no matter how much you want to nurture and love another being, love cannot be reciprocated unless it is first received. Here are two essential principles about handling wounded people.
1. Increase in Humility.
If you are anything like me, being attacked makes you angry. Attack can come in many forms. When people decide you don’t measure-up it can even make you question your love for God’s people. Sometimes attack comes from so close that it may make a church leader question if the potential trouble we face it is even worth it. Perhaps a family member, who knows of your imperfections, announces their conviction that you are a hypocrite. Speaking to his disciples, Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” (Mark 6:4, ESV) The closer an attacker or a slanderer is to you relationally the more pain the attack will likely cause. The Apostles were attacked. Jesus was slandered, spat upon, and crucified by those He came to shower with love.
When attack comes, breathe through the anger then give it God – through tears of anguish if necessary. Ask God if there is any truth in the accusation. If there is, learn from the attack, attempt reconciliation with your accuser. Trust God with the results. If there no truth, trust God and cling to Christ for comfort and strength. Allow attack to increase your humility. If they attacked Jesus how humbled ought we to be to be counted worthy of similar attack? “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (John 15:20, ESV)