The other day I was thinking about all the years I had spent at my former church. I began to wonder how I had been so deceived for so long and what I needed to do in the future to make sure that I never found myself in that situation again. The Bible verse that says, know those who labor among you, came to me and I looked it up to see exactly what it said. Here it is in the amplified version:
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22Now also we beseech you, brethren, get to know those who labor among you [recognize them for what they are, acknowledge and appreciate and respect them all]--
your leaders who are over you in the Lord and those who warn and kindly reprove and exhort you. And hold them in very high and most affectionate esteem in [intelligent and sympathetic] appreciation of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we earnestly beseech you, brethren, admonish (warn and seriously advise) those who are out of line [the loafers, the disorderly, and the unruly]; encourage the timid and fainthearted, help and give your support to the weak souls, [and] be very patient with everybody [always keeping your temper].See that none of you repays another with evil for evil, but always aim to show kindness and seek to do good to one another and to everybody. Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; Do not spurn the gifts and utterances of the prophets [do not depreciate prophetic revelations nor despise inspired instruction or exhortation or warning]. But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be.
I italicized the beginning and the end of this passage because that is what stood out to me the most. I typed all of the passage because I am so tired of having several single scriptures read, out of context, and strung together to create a new doctrine that does not line up with what the Bible teaches.
This scripture tells us to get to know
those who labor among us and those who are our leaders. The leaders at my former church did not want to get to know anyone that they were leading, and they certainly did not want those that they were leading to get to know them. They were secretive about everything that concerned their lives. They didn't want anyone to know anything about them. They only wanted people to know the image that they built for themselves and as the years went on it became apparent that this was a very false image.
It also tells us to test all things and hold fast to what is good
and to stay away from evil.
I began to look in the New Testament to see what leaders should be like and what I should hold fast to and what I should stay away from. I found this in Matthew and I felt like the New Living Translation gets the point across the best.
Matthew 7:15-23 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.'
I looked at the way the leadership in my former church had behaved. The way they treated people as a whole. It was so wrong. I looked at peoples' lives that had been mistreated by the leadership and the results of the way they had been treated. It was definitely bad fruit. I see by this scripture that all because someone 'prophesies, casts out demons and performs miracles' in Jesus' name it means nothing if people are treated as something to be used today and discarded tomorrow. According to this scripture someone who doesn't even know Jesus could prophesy, cast out demons and perform miracles, and at my former church there were no demons being cast out and no one performing miracles.
Proverbs 29:4 in The Message says: A leader of good judgment gives stability; an exploiting leader leaves a trail of waste. I have personally seen the trail of waste left in many peoples' lives by my former leaders.
The New King James version says it like this: The king by justice establishes the land, but he who exacts gifts and tribute overthrows it.The dictionary definition of justice is
:1) the quality of being just; fairness 2)the principle of moral rightness 3)conformity to moral rightness in action and attitude, righteousness 4)the upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment, and due rewards in accordance with honor, standards or law.
The Bible has this to say about justice in Matthew23:23 in the NIV says:"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
The most important things about the ones who labor among you is how they act. If I ever choose another church to be a part of and become a member of I will make sure that the ones in leadership positions do not neglect the more important matters such as justice, mercy and faithfulness. I will make sure I get to know those who labor with me. I will choose a church where the leaders want to labor with me and not control me and require that I labor for them instead of for the gospel.