My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)
Grace has been on my mind all month. This year March Madness has been much more than basketball. Infidelity and abuse scandals have been snowballing ever since Harvey Weinstein was exposed last October. This month the lives of even more politicians, media celebrities, and ministry leaders have imploded as new accusations are unleashed. Sadly, many of the dark revelations have turned out to be true. Lives are being shattered like glass bowling pins.
Perhaps more devastating is that some accusations may not even be true. It has never been easier to falsely accuse a public figure than it is right now. A falsely accused person has to decide whether to fight back. A long time ago my seminary professors taught that noble ministry leaders should ignore lies told about them. We were counseled to take the high road, remain silent and leave our reputation to God. But with the advent of social media, it’s getting much more complicated than it used to be. It’s pure madness. In some cases we may never be able to sort out the facts.
Not all the mud slinging is about sexual indiscretion. Some of it is about theological tolerance and hiring decisions which critics can label sinful or evil. Anyone with a blog can smear a leader with whom they disagree. If you’re articulate and savvy, you can gain a following and manipulate a church or a school in the name of a godly rebuke. Followers will applaud you for revealing “the truth” without ever hearing a rebuttal from the accused, who typically won’t respond at all. The dirt flies, but it’s all one-sided. You can even twist a person’s name to ridicule people. (Ever heard of “Obamanation”used for “abomination”?)
Is a church or an organization not headed in the direction you want? Are leaders ignoring your attempts to correct their course? In the old days you had few options except to part ways. But now you can call them out. You can blow a whistle. You can drag private leadership and personnel matters into public. Social media has changed everything. It’s a form of March Madness, but it’s not limited to March.
Leadership disagreements are inevitable. Most high level decisions are complex and debatable. In the early church, Paul and Barnabas experienced a falling out. It involved a young disciple named John Mark who had deserted them on a missionary journey. Barnabas wanted to give him another chance. Paul didn’t. Paul was focused on the task at hand. John Mark wasn’t the best person for the job. Barnabas was focused on the person. John Mark still had untapped potential for the Kingdom. In the end Paul and Barnabas separated. But they parted as friends. God was in the process. They each picked a new partner. Suddenly there were two missionary teams instead of just one. It was a win-win. Paul formed a new missionary partnership with Silas. Barnabas chose to continue his work with John Mark. It worked. Later John Mark wrote the second book in the New Testament. And Paul and Silas became the greatest missionary team in history.
A win-win requires maturity. It requires tolerance. It requires grace. Earlier this month, Jim Denison wrote a blog post about grace. It’s a good four-minute read. The link below is for anyone who, like me, needs grace in a graceless, social-media-frenzy kind of world.