Monday, June 06, 2005

Church Politics and Patience

It's an enlightening experience, taking part in church committees. I've been on several--though never as a volunteer. There always seem to be a few people engaging in political maneuvers that would seem more at home inside the beltway. You'd think Christians would behave better, but if so you'd be naïve: Christians are people too. On the other hand, Bible-bashers would use those bad apples as proof that Christianity is a farce, but that's intellectual dishonesty on par with arguing that the police force should be disbanded because some cops are crooked.

Seeing these political games first-hand has taught me a lesson or two in patience. It's my nature to be outraged when people spread misinformation, conduct behind-the-scenes campaigns, and try to force issues in their preferred direction. But why? Because it's dishonest? Because it's not Christ-like? I'd like to think that my motives are that pure--that I'm really that driven by principle. Certainly that's part of it. But the main reason I'm so outraged is that I fear these efforts might succeed: the misinformation might be believed; the bad counsel might be followed; wrong-doing may carry the day. In other words, my outrage is partly fear that wrong will triumph, and partly an impatient need to seize control immediately, and to personally make sure that wrong is put in its place.

What I've found, in being forced to handle these things patiently, has been very helpful. For one thing, there are plenty of other men of principle who will do their part, and when I wait I'm often rewarded with such people stepping up to the plate. The world doesn't rest on one person's shoulders. On the other hand, I've also seen that wrong does sometimes win, and there's nothing I can do about it. Sometimes misinformation is believed, slander is repeated, good deeds are punished and bad deeds rewarded. It's rather liberating to wake up to the reality that forcing the right outcome just can't be done by a mere mortal. Scripture says that "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" [2 Tim 3:13]. Christ himself said, "when the son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" [Luke 18:8]. The Bible (not to mention experience) assures us not only that evil exists, but that it often gets the upper hand in this world. It doesn't do any good to go crazy raging against that reality.

Patience becomes possible when we accept that we aren't in control, accept that things will indeed come out wrong, and trust that God is in control and will ultimately put things right. Without trust in God, acceptance of reality makes us cynical and ultimately leads to despair. On the other hand if we don't accept the reality that evil often triumphs in the short term, we will constantly fight battles we can never win. That's a waste of energy at best, and it threatens to weaken our faith in God's ultimate fairness.

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