This post is difficult for me to write because I have lived it so many, many times. The subject gets my blood pressure, dander, ire and anger “up” big time. I hate this stuff. It is soooo prevalent in our churches and there is no excuse for it. This time, as is so common, it comes from a pastor.
Now, I do not know Pastor Brian G. Najapfour, pastor of Dutton United Reformed Church in Michigan. I did however read his recent article in The Outlook magazine entitled “Reflections from My 16 Years of Experience as a Pastor.” I am not trying to do him harm here, but I am attempting to keep his words from doing harm to others.
First of all, let me say that 16 years is not very long. I have been a pastor now for 38 years and it seems like it has only been in the last six or so that I really started to grasp real wisdom, especially wisdom about wickedness parading in the church in a Christian disguise. Perhaps in another 20 years Pastor Najapfour will see the nature and tactics of evil more clearly. I hope so.
But listen now to what he wrote in this part of his article:
In the ministry you will encounter someone who will dislike you for no good reason. And that person can be one of your church leaders. I remember talking to a fellow pastor of another congregation. He told me that one of his elders just doesn’t like him and he did not know why. This elder treats him unfairly and negatively. When dealing with people like this elder, seek by God’s grace to always take the high road. Don’t pay these people back with evil for the evil they do to you (1 Pet 3:9). Instead, pray for them and show more the love of Christ to them.
Why does this kind of thing get me so riled? Because for years and years as a pastor I was told this stuff by people who were supposedly eminent holy wise ones in Christendom. I read it in their books. I heard them say it in sermons. Some of them told me these things in person. And all the while it kept me in bondage to evil.
There is no excuse for a minister of the gospel to teach such things. Why? Because God’s Word is so very, very clear and what Pastor Najapfour says is absolutely contrary to Scripture. What he is doing is teaching as Scripture what is really the tradition of man. Let me bullet-point what he is saying:
- A Christian can dislike another Christian for no good reason
- Such a Christian can even be a church elder
- A Christian can treat another Christian unfairly and negatively
- A Christian can do evil to another Christian
- And a Christian can do these things habitually, in an ongoing pattern, with no repentance
- The Lord’s command to us is to pray for such a person and show them the love of Christ
Now, what does God’s Word really have to say on this? Here you go:
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11)
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:9-10)
See it? There is nothing unclear about God’s Word and there is everything unclear about man’s traditions parading as Scripture. What this pastor is saying is exactly opposite of what the Apostle John writes here. The result? An evil man parading as a Christian is allowed to remain in church leadership, continuing in his abusive ways for his own glory as he lusts for power and control. How should he be dealt with according to Scripture? The Apostle John has the answer to that question to, in the second paragraph of this passage:
Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.
I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us. So when I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, spreading malicious nonsense about us. Not satisfied with that, he even refuses to welcome other believers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. (3 John 1:5-11 NIV)
Now, what do these words of Pastor Najapfour accomplish in regard to an abuse victim and her abuser in a local church? Most all of you know the answer because you have lived it. The abuser is going to be most certainly enabled, allowed to go right on parading as a Christian, his salvation never, ever challenged and in fact he is not even going to be confronted. His victim? Well, Pastor Najapfour gives the same common and terrible counsel to her ‘ “suck it up, be a better Christian yourself, love him more and pray for him.”
Do you see why what he has written makes me so angry? I lived it. For decades I lived it as a pastor in three local churches. I was in bondage to this very same false teaching until ultimately, after over 25 years in that condition, the Lord turned the lights on for me. I saw these kinds of people Najapfour tells us we must love, pray for, and be sooooo patient with, for what they truly are. Wolves in wool. Children of the devil parading as sons of righteousness. And we are to deal with them as such, not as Christian brethren who sometimes sin.
That is Christ’s truth. And it really does set us free.