2014 Lent 10

I Corinthians 4:1-7

The flip side of partisanship–the side you feel when folks like someone else better than you–is of course the sting of rebuke, criticism, and so on.

In this respect I wonder if St. Paul had something of a thin skin when penning these words and the words of the past few days.  Maybe what he’s saying here is something like:

“Hey, stop judging me.  Stop pitting my preaching, teaching, and leadership against Apollos and Cephas.  They may indeed be better preachers than I.  But that’s not what really matters, is it?  Rather, isn’t it better when a pastor is trustworthy?  Integrity is what matters.  That, and that we are servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.  So just back off!”

Church leaders, like all public figures, are subject to scrutiny.  If they’re thin-skinned, like me, then a seemingly continuous barrage of criticism can begin to feel relentless, painfully so.  If Paul is indeed telling the Corinthian believers here to get off his back, then I hardly blame him.  There comes a point when enough if enough already!

Still, scrutiny needs to have a place when it comes to public (and not-so-public) figures.  A rockstar or other celebrity cannot expect previous accolades and popular appeal to keep him from rebuke.  The names Steven Tyler, Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Bieber come to mind, to name but a few.  Dumb acts deserve disapproval.  And in this sense a church leader should definitely be accountable.

But Paul is not referring to this kind of scrutiny.  Rather, it’s the incessant harping on personality traits, less-than-perfect judgment calls, poor communication, and so on.

To form personality parties over these matters is simply and plainly wrong.  And, frankly, to put modern-day clothes on this issue, when someone loses a job for this sort of thing it does everyone involved a disservice.


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