Has this happened to you? Someone comes to you for advice, or to settle a dispute. You carefully consider the situation and tell them your answer (possibly with ample support from scripture). They don’t like the answer, ignore it, and do what they wanted to in the first place.
We live in a culture that does not accept the possibility that we may be wrong. “Have it your way” is the rule of the day. “Everyone is right”. “That is your opinion”. There is always another voice we can listen to that will declare what we want. It is easy to gather a group of followers to side with us against the wisdom of God. Kind of like the saying in statistics, “if you torture the data long enough it will confess to anything”, we can always find a sympathizer if we look long enough or sow enough discord. Ultimately, we do not want the objective truth because it may just conflict with our desires. In regards to dismissing pastoral advice, Deuteronomy 17:9-13 has a very interesting solution.
Some may think it a bit strong to say that “if I don’t listen to my pastor I am rebelling against God”, but scripture is pretty clear on the subject. It is difficult for us to even comprehend the fact that when the apostles told people to obey the civil authorities it was those authorities who were hunting down and killing Christians. How much more so are we to obey the spiritual authorities God has given us. We are not really at liberty to question the creator of the universe why He has chosen our under-shepherds. God, in His providence, has ordained these people to shepherd His people, and that includes us.
Our position of disobedience is on even less solid ground if we elected them to church office. If we have voted them into the positions we are even more responsible to take their advice. By voting for them we have affirmed that they are worthy to be honored, respected, and listened to. Furthermore, most denominations, when installing a leader, will have the members take vows to pray for them, listen and obey them. These are not just vows to the leader or fellow congregants, they are a covenant with God. We break that covenant to our peril.
But what if we know the leader is wrong? Why should we listen to someone if we think their advice is bad? Some will submit out of fear of church discipline, but that is rare these days. Many people will submit out of false humility, secretly praying that God will vindicate themselves. We “rest” knowing that God will hold them accountable (yet somehow forget He will hold us accountable for our sinful attitude). Alas, very few will submit out of true humility in worship of our Savior. The majority maintain a sturdy self-righteous rebellion against submission.
At the core are two issues, a defective view of God’s sovereignty and an unwillingness to submit ourselves to God. We make ourselves to be wiser than God. We do not believe that He is working in this situation, and it is up to us to fix things. We think we know better than Him, revealing the fact that we have already placed something else on the throne of our lives.
Is there any positive to submitting to our leaders? Of course there is! Listening to our leaders is not only the responsibility of a church member, it is also God’s grace and advantage to us. We are freed up to live in faith that God is working all things out to His glory. We do not need to worry, fret, stress over the details because God has chosen faithful people to fulfill His plan. As such, submission is actually a form of worship.
Worship? Accepting a leader’s counsel is worship? That’s right. By submitting to God’s righteousness (and righteous plan) in faith, we offer an acceptable spiritual sacrifice, confessing that God is God, and ascribe the worth due His name.
Well, it is late now, and I must sleep. A lot more could be written, but I hope that gets some of you thinking.