07 March, 2013

Controlled By Another

A couple of weeks ago I had a long conversation with someone who was a former church member, but they had left with a group of other people a few years ago. This person has always remained in contact with me and has commented several times how they would like to come back to my church. On this particular day, they made that same comment, and I asked, "So why don't you?" The response was, "It's just not that simple, Pastor D."  I asked what made it complicated? The person told me, "I'm afraid of the consequences." I told this person that the people in our church would welcome them back with open arms, so I did not see a problem. They told me that the problem was not those in the church, but other people would be furious at them for going back. The rest of our conversation does not matter for the purpose of this blog, but this serves at something that has been eating at me for a long time. 

Here's the question: Why does anyone allow someone else (or a group of others) to control their life?
Why would a sane, rational person allow someone else's problem and bitterness infect and affect them? Why would someone sacrifice what they really want to do and be where they want to be to keep a person(s) on their good side? That just makes no sense at all. But it happens all the time. It reminds me of something that happened when I was a teenager. I had a favorite place to eat (you Bethalto folks know the place as Roma's). It is a very popular place in my hometown. One day one of my friends got carried away (he was drunk) and he became rather destructive and the owners asked him to leave. My friend, rather than seeing that he had been at fault began a campaign to get all of our friends to stop eating at Roma's.  I told him he was free to do what he wanted, but I was not giving up Roma's pizza because he got stupid and made some mistakes and that he needed to apologize to the owners for his behavior. Several of my friends blindly sided with this guy and quit going to Roma's. This went on for months. Because I refused to be party to his boycott, he got mad and quit speaking to me, and went so far as to spread rumors about me. A friendship was destroyed. He told everyone that our friendship ended because I was two faced and not a loyal friend. The reality is, our friendship ended because I refused to follow him blindly and encouraged him to own up to his mistake and make things right. I refused to give up something that was important to me without a just cause. I told him many times that if the owners were at fault that I'd side with him, but that he was wrong, he had made a mistake and he needed to man up and admit his mistake and be done with it. He never did, and to the best of my knowledge, he never did before he died some years later. How sad, that he was unable to admit that he screwed up. But isn't it sadder still is that others followed him and gave up eating in one of the best pizza houses on the face of the earth, and the only reason is that this guy got sloppy drunk and broke several things in the restaurant. That is not being a loyal friend... that is just plain stupid! And the worst part is that if they had stood up to him and told him he was wrong, he might have been forced to look at himself clearly and see that his drinking was getting out of control. Ironically, this guy died a terrible death as a direct result of his drinking. Maybe... just maybe if he had been told "You're wrong. You made a fool of yourself and you did this to yourself", just maybe he might have examined his drinking and he might still be alive today. We'll never know for sure, but it is for sure that blind loyalty did not help him at all.

The fact is that this same is played out in churches all the time! Someone doesn't get their way, or they make a mess (people do do that) and rather than admit their mistake or failure, they leave. But seldom do they ever just leave quietly, they circle the wagons and take others with them. They start a smear campaign against the pastor or the church and others, out of blind loyalty to their "friend" just go along with them, in order to "keep peace." What they don't realize is that THEY are the ones suffering, and their blind loyalty allows the person who caused the problem to feel justified because everyone knows that there is strength in numbers. So the person bounces from church to church over the years, leaving a path of destruction where ever they go with plenty of casualties along the way. 
That's just sad all the way around.

Then there is another group altogether. Because "someone said" something about a church, they will not go there. I've even seen people come to our church for several weeks or even months, only to have someone else in town say that they had heard "such and such" about that church. For example, some time back someone started telling people that the Church of God did not allow women to preach and that they were oppressive to women, which led to several families leaving the church. Not long ago, one of those families (after well over a year of being gone) asked me about it and I told them that it was completely wrong, that we did have women in ministry and serving as pastors. That family is back in church now, but very angry that they were so easily led to believe a lie. That is what happens when we allow ourselves to be controlled by others. 

Always remember this... the person pulling the strings has always goat an ulterior motive. They have something to gain, even if that gain is just to hurt someone else. 

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