Many days there is more wading through garbage than triumphal procession.
A visionary dreamer saved his entire family and the the nation of Egypt from the brink of starvation through wise decision making. A passionate and dedicated young man defeats an army when he slays a giant, and then plays his heart out to soothe his stressed out king. An upright Jew exiled in a foreign country refuses to slide into moral decay. Instead he uses his leadership acumen to help his captive nation flourish. A man of common pedigree bursts into the spotlight when he teaches with an uncommon authority that stumps the educated and draws the masses, performing miracles that had not been seen since the days of Elisha.
You would think that they would be paid handsomely for their actions. Accolades, awards…ticker tape parades.
Joseph was beaten by his own brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and forgotten to rot in a jail cell. David spent a decade dodging spears and running for his life. Daniel is framed by his enemies and thrown to the lions. Jesus is betrayed by one of his closest “friends” and is nailed to a Roman cross.
So why are we surprised when our best intentions are skewed and those we think should have our back end up stabbing us in it?
In his final days on earth, Jesus gathered his disciples and gave them a pep talk to encourage them before he left the earth. I don’t think it was very comforting. In fact, it was almost comical how bleak it was. Jesus promised the disciples that they would be hated by the world because he was also hated. They would be persecuted, thrown out of the synagogues, killed, scattered and experience many trials and sorrows (John ch. 15, 16). As an encore he exclaimed, “Take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Basically Jesus says, “This is going to happen, but I have already won, and I am with you…so live with courage.”
So Christian leader, when you experience people trash-talking you, trying to undermine you, or flat out doing whatever they can to destroy you, keep these things in mind:
Don’t be Surprised
Jesus promised this would happen (remember the bit where he said “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first” John 15:18). Even Christians can be very worldly, and ‘friendly fire’ always hurts the most. The next time you encounter troubles, don’t let it surprise you. Instead, be ready for it so that you can deal with it in a healthy manner.
Don’t Fight Fire with Fire
What impresses me most about the strong leaders of the Bible and today is that they refuse to fight back in the same manner they are being attacked. Joseph never treated his brothers to a beat down in Egypt, David never threw a spear back at Saul’s crowned head, and Jesus prayed “father forgive them for they know not what they are doing” to those who brutally nailed him to the cross. Anger and vengeance can only lead to a hardening of the heart. You end up becoming what you hate. And when your main role is to lead people to a growing relationship with Jesus, there is no room for it.
Don’t Stop Doing What is Good
When we have been attacked it is easy to start to shut down and protect ourselves from any vulnerability. When you do this you may very well face much less attack, but you will also be rendered ineffective. Let God sort out the details of who is in the right and wrong. In the meantime, keep moving forward. Put yourself out there, and you will make a much bigger impact than if you live your leadership life on an island of insecurity. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9). These are good words to live by written by the Apostle Paul, a man who knew what it was like to be trash-talked, beaten and misunderstood.
Yes, being a Christian leader sometimes sucks. But there is nothing else I would rather do. When I feel like I have been put through a spin cycle, I am reminded that I need thick skin to fend off the attacks of others, and a soft heart to continue to pour out the love of Jesus to those who need it most.