Grumbling, grace and edification

GrumblingIt is easy to get frustrated with how things are. This seems especially true when it comes to churches. Each member has some idea of what the ideal church looks like and ultimately every church falls short of that ideal.

If we are not careful, that frustration can grow into grumbling about the leadership. This in turn can result in assigning wrong motives to the decisions the leaders make.

Recently I found two verses in our devotions which speak to this issue. They are:

Proverbs 25:8 (NASB95) — Do not go out hastily to argue your case; Otherwise, what will you do in the end, When your neighbor humiliates you?

Ephesians 4:29 (NASB95) — Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

The verse in proverbs tells me that I should not be quick to jump to a conclusion about why things are the way they are. I know from experience of being in leadership, often times things are different than the leader would like them to be. Just because a leader is in place does not mean that he has control over every aspect of the system he leads. Any time there are people involved, there will be some level of chaos; my job is to not add to the chaos.

I cannot know all the circumstances and when I assume that I do know I am probably wrong. Therefore if I move to quickly to accuse, it may come back upon my head because I misunderstood or did not know the circumstances. Perhaps the leader did the best in a bad situation. Perhaps he was forced to choose the lesser of two evils. We cannot judge until the facts are known.

Even if I come to a conclusion about the situation, Paul tells me in Ephesians 4:29 that I need to be careful in what I say. Everything that is said must be good for edification. In other words, what I say must build up and not tear down. There is no exception clause here. He doesn’t say “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth unless you are angry.” Paul doesn’t tell us to say whatever is on your mind even if you will have to later apologize for being unkind. He tells us that in all circumstances, angry or not, our speech must build up. Period, no exceptions.

So, before you fire off that email, or call your friend or have roast pastor for Sunday dinner, take a deep breath. Take the time to reflect upon the situation. Are you frustrated because something is pushing your buttons? Are you frustrated because you have unrealistic expectations of the leaders? Take the time to evaluate the source of the frustration.

Then, if your frustration is legitimate, take the time to figure out how to address it constructively and gracefully. It is hard to be angry and full of grace at the same time. Jesus could pull this combination off, I have learned that I cannot.

In most cases, your church leaders take their calling very seriously and criticism hurts them, especially when it is undeserved. If you are going to err, err on the side of grace. Your leaders will appreciate you for it since they are probably already aware of their shortcomings.