I just finished a book entitled “How to Solve your People Problems: Dealing with the difficult people in your life.” It is a great book written by a Christian author (Alan Godwin) who for years has counseled people in conflict resolution, and how to deal with the difficult people in one’s life-both the “reasonable and the unreasonable.” But one thing that alarmed me as I read this book was the number of people in ministry positions, leadership positions in the church, who act one way at home and quite another way at church. There was a true story of one man who was an elder in his church, yet for all of his married life had verbally abused his wife. He was one way at home, but quite another way in front of the flock or at a potluck meal. I find this Jekyl and Hyde facade very appalling. Lest you think we can only READ about such undetected atrocities inside the church, I should share a few of my own stories. I know of one church elder who each Sunday goes through the motions as a pillar in his church, speaking, sharing, serving, but on his own time, he gambles, mistreats his employees, and betrays his wife’s trust. I know another leader in the church who verbally abuses his wife, controls her in an unhealthy and harmful way, and yet leads the “charge” each Sunday as he sets his “Sunday best” in motion. I know of women who project themselves as saints inside church circles, but they treat their adult children with such disrespect, manipulating them for their own selfish gain by employing guilt, shame, and sarcasm in order to solicit the behaviors they desire. Essentially, these so called Christians are living a lie. And then there is me. I serve in my church. I serve on a local chapel board. I lead bible studies. But at home I am often disrespectful to my husband, impatient with my children, and self-righteous about the “charges” I lead from this base of operations I call home. I like to think that I am transparent. My motto is often “what you see is what you get.” But sometimes I know that I am misleading others, projecting the false belief that (1 ) I have it all together or (2) My family should be lucky to have me and/or (3) I am rarely, if ever wrong. As I read Alan Godwin’s book and pondered some of these true scenarios while considering some of my own experiences with similar persons, I felt sick. I thought to myself, “It is perhaps the worst kind of sin to act one way to the masses, while privately abusing those who are closest to you, OR anyone who takes a stand opposite your position.” Then I started a closer examination of my own life and realized there were many areas where improvements could be made and spiritual growth could ensue. And finely, I was left with this nagging thought. We (Christ followers) have to look different. It is imperative that we “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life….”Philippians 2
Jesus had much to say about the sin of “two-faced.” in Matthew 23: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! 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. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Paul said about himself and his missionary companions in 2 Corinthians 10 “Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.” Paul the apostle was the same guy in person as he was in when absent. We should follow suit with this divine example. We should understand that if we are not for God, then we are against Him. If we abuse others, physically, mentally or otherwise, then we are abusing the positions we hold in ministry, in our community, and in our homes. Belonging to Christ and serving in His kingdom doesn’t grant us licenses to treat others with malice and disrespect. Leadership in ministry and “saintly” labels do NOT give us a free pass to trample down everyone in our path. Nor does it excuse us from the consequences of such behaviors.