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Abusive Leadership

Link to: abusive_leadership.mp3

Abusive leadership is so ingrained in religion that it has come to be the de facto structure and theory of denominational theologies.  Any time that someone assumes authority that is not theirs abuse is sure to develop.   The pattern is as old as mankind. 

If you have read the Bible you undoubtedly noticed that in the Old Testament, the Jewish Priesthood became corrupt and began to serve their own desires instead of God and the needs of God’s people.  It’s one of the major sub-themes in the historical books and a major theme in books of the prophets.   In Jeremiah 5:13-14 you will find Jeremiah, speaking for God about the religious leaders of his day. He says:   “For from the least of them to the greatest of them, every one is greedy for gain, and from the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely.  And they have healed the brokenness of my people superficially, saying peace, peace but there is no peace.”   (Continued below)

     One Master
     Setting The Prisoners Free
     Shackles of Religion

     Not of Men, Not By Man:  Galatians 1:1
     Prophetic  Movement

     Dual Natures
     Paul's Approach to Ministry
     Israel or Church? Servants or Sons?

In the Gospels it is interesting to notice that Jesus related freely with the prostitutes, drunks, tax collectors, diseased and demon possessed, but had a real problem with the religious system and leadership.  Speaking of the religious leaders Jesus says in Matthew 23:4-7:  “They tie up burdens that are heavy and unbearable and lay them on people's shoulders, but they refuse to lift a finger to remove them. They do all their actions to be seen by people. They increase the size of their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love to have the places of honor at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, to be greeted in the marketplaces, and to be called 'Rabbi' by people.”  

It was to people distressed and downcast under religious, political and economic pressures that Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30:   “Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble at heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my load is light.”

Jesus recognized that the people he spoke those words to are first, weary and second heavily laden.   Performance based religion places an impossible load upon its victims.  Trying to be good enough to please God can not be accomplished. 
As a teenager I visited the Grand Canyon.  I remember standing at the trail head watching a donkey train laboring up the trail.  From a distance it looked like a string of piles of bags and boxes wobbling their way up the trail.  Only when they got closer could I see the donkey’s little heads and little spindly legs poking out of the mounds of baggage.   Now I think they may have been religious donkeys because when thy passed by me, their tongues were hanging out and they were weary and heavy-laden.  The driver was giving them no rest.

John the Baptist wasn’t bashful when in Matthew the third chapter he called the religious leaders a generation of vipers.  Jesus used a similar description in Matthew 12 when he called them a brood of vipers. He said:  “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?” 
Having grown up in the desert of New Mexico, I can see why Jesus would use this wording to describe religious leaders:  In the heat of the day snakes move into shady places to survive the high heat.   So do weary hot travelers.  When the hot traveler settles into a shady place to rest the snake strikes and poisons them.  It’s a slow and painful death.  That is the picture:  Burdened and hurting people come into a place that they would expect to find rest.  They find people who appear to be helpful but instead they are poisoned with performance based religion and loaded up like donkeys coming up the trail.  Jesus was not impressed.

In the epistles, Paul identifies the abusers as: false brethren, evil workers, the dogs, Judaizers and the circumcision.  The prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul were all confronting the same thing:  Performance based religion.  It always leads to abuse.   Once a person buys into self righteousness as a way to please God, it becomes all about performance.  Religion becomes a competition over who can perform better, appear holier and gain the most attention.   When this type of person gains authority over others the abuse begins.

In the book of Galatians, Paul says that the effect of performance based religion is bewitchment and mental confusion.  People who have been bewitched by abusive leaders feel belittled, tired and powerless because they can not live up to other people’s expectation.

In Acts 20:28, Paul exhorts the believers in Ephesus to be on guard against the legalistic performance system.  Formulas, systems, man’s doctrines and pride can subtly lull us into conformity to the world instead of transformation by the renewing of our minds. 

Is your church a shady spot filled with vipers?  Is Sunday morning like a donkey train laboring up the trail driven by a hard task master?  Has religion bewitched you into the viper pit?  Jesus said: come unto me, I will give you rest. 

Real rest, real love, real ….


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