The Porcupines Among Us
Every church has one or more porcupines in attendance. The porcupine is the person who feels entitled to stand in judgment of the church and often acts in a way that is disruptive to body life through their sense of superiority and entitlement. They are not in open hostility, nor are they doing anything worthy of church discipline, yet they cause problems as a result of their prickly nature.
Dealing with Porcupines
The best response to a porcupine in the wild is to leave it alone and hope it goes away. While we might want our church porcupines to do just that, often they do not. How then are we to respond to the porcupines that refuse to go away?
While the porcupines in our church are not really enemies, Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:38-48 is instructive for dealing with them. Jesus tells us to do some things to our enemies that most people would think are weird or just plain stupid. In response to our enemies, we are called to:
- Turn the other cheek
- Give more than is asked
- Go the extra mile
- Love our enemies
- Pray for those who persecute us
- Greet your enemies (be friendly)
- Do all these things perfectly
If this is the response to enemies that are dangerous, what then is the response to the porcupines who are merely annoying? I think that we are to embrace them and welcome them. The problem is that when you hug a porcupine, you’re going to feel the pain of the barbs. Many or most of the barbs will be aimed at church leadership, the very people who are trying to help. It is easy to give up and avoid the porcupine, but that is really not an option.
If we wonder about the wisdom of this, I think that it is instructive to look at Jesus’ interaction with the disciples. They were often slow on the uptake and occasionally abrasive. Jesus did not loose patience with them even when they displayed their worst behavior.
The Benefit of Porcupines
I think that God gives us porcupines for the same reason he gave Paul his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). Without the porcupines, we might loose sight of the fact of our dependence upon God. We might start believing that we have mastered church leadership. We might start relying on our abilities rather than on our Savior.
While we may not really enjoy porcupines, we can rest in the knowledge that God has them there for a purpose and we cannot see the end result. As with the disciples, many church leaders began their Christian walk as porcupines. So do not loose hope. God is not done with the porcupines or us as leaders.