In Part 1 of this series, I introduced the problem of destructive behavior by campus leaders. Part 2 provided biblical solutions and best practices regarding confronting destructive behavior. We now turn to your personal proactive solution—biblically overcoming evil behavior.
You must overcome evil behavior with righteous behavior.
To survive a Christian leader’s destructive behavior, you must overcome evil behavior in a way not easily practiced. You must abstain from retaliation. You must curb your appetite for retribution. You must refrain from public scorn aimed at your adversary. You must substitute your need for retaliation, retribution, and public scorn with your righteous behavior.
There is only one way to be successful. A biblical story will illustrate this point. Jesus spoke about an unclean spirit ejected from a man, only to return with an additional seven spirits more wicked than the first. The man’s condition was worse than prior to the exorcism (Matthew 12:43–45).
Listen closely. Read carefully. If you do not replace your desire for retaliation, retribution, and public scorn with the desire and completion of righteous works, your behavior will become worse than your adversary’s behavior.
The good works in question are not toward your adversary; your good works are despite your adversary.
It is not my intention to suggest you spend your time or effort doing kind things for your adversary, although that may not be a bad idea in certain circumstances (example: Elisha feeding Aram’s army). I am suggesting you begin by doing nothing positive or negative regarding your adversary. I am suggesting your good works are related to your life and God-given mission, not your adversary’s action toward your life and mission.
Focus on your life and mission, not on your adversary. In fact, forget your nemesis. Make him of no account in your life. Pay him no attention. Forget about him and his evil behavior. Make your sole focus your life and God-given mission. Let me explain.
I made the focus mistake in the early 2000s. A tag-team of adversaries had me in their sites. They were practiced and accomplished; they were relentless to previous leaders. Our mission became invisible to all who watched the mêlée.
To keep the focus on the mission, seven key practices of overcoming evil behavior with good works must be employed in your life. Do these seven practices and your life will change. Guaranteed. Below are the first three. In Part 4, we wil look at the last four practices.
Practice #1: Decline Warrior Status
During repeated attacks, you can become known for several unflattering characteristics that should be avoided.
Decline being known as a warrior; being a warrior is not your calling.
Your reputation as a skilled warrior can be cemented in historical folklore along with your colleagues and biblical characters. However, fighting a good but wasteful battle does not allow you the opportunity to drive your mission.
Abishai of King David’s army was known as the man who wanted heads to roll. On several occasions when David’s honor was questioned or David was being criticized, Abishai’s one recurring request was, “Let me go over and cut off his head” (2 Samuel 16:9). David would not let Abishai do this kind of damage until near the end of David’s reign. David kept on mission. David knew on what to focus. The focus was not on David’s adversaries; the focus remained on David’s mission to be a king after God’s own heart.
As a teenager, my pastor would tell me, “If it is not worth dying for, it is not worth fighting for. And the older I get, the less things are worth dying for.” I thought he was an old fool (he must have been 35 at least!). These days I might change his words slightly: “If it is not worth killing his reputation, it is not worth fighting him.” Fighting the destructive guys may enhance your reputation as a warrior, but the price paid is at the expense of abandoning your mission.
Decline warrior status; focus on your God-given mission.
Practice #2: Decline Political Status
Decline political status; you do not need what Jesus rejected.
Truthfully, who needs political power in the college? Your reputation as a political force will be assured if you amass a formidable movement of revenge against your relentless critic. You make phone calls and personal visits with your colleagues. You plan strategy and timing of your next move. You calculate votes for and against your plan. All the while, your God-given mission—your ministry—suffers because you are dancing with a dangerous mistress of revenge. If not checked early, obsession with her becomes a thief of your soul.
Jesus lived a life of servanthood with humility, not political status. Jesus turned heads and hearts with the Beatitudes. Jesus modeled humility, as recorded in Philippians 2:5–8.
In your latest skirmish, mentally count the hours of the phone calls, emails, texts, and personal or group conversations you had strategizing against that destructive Christian leader. How much more could you have accomplished if those hours had been spent imitating Jesus? Take your number of hours, multiply that number by the number of people in the fray. How disheartening to visualize the wasted manhours.
Want to know the sorrow of Christ?
Take the total estimated number of man-hours wasted in that skirmish and multiply the number by the number of tussles in your college during the last three years. Now multiply that massive number of wasted manhours and multiply it by the total number of Christian colleges in America. There is no doubt this is one tremendous reason we fail to move forward as we ought.
Decline revenge opportunities; you give up rationality when you frolic with the mistress of revenge.
If the total disdain for an adversary metastasizes, it is not possible for any act of that person to be righteous. He can do no right, no matter the right he does. Your logic becomes flawed: Since he committed such an egregious act, no further acts can be righteous, no matter how righteous those acts might be. People see your hatred and learn something about your lack of rationality. It is not pretty to anyone.
Aside from giving up rationality, there are other casualties when you share a bed with revenge—creativity and optimism.
Creativity and optimism become impossible.
You become so focused on how and when you will disrupt the life of your antagonist, it is impossible to construct the future in your own mission. It is impossible to foam at the mouth with rabies and enjoy a drink of cool, sweet water at the same time.
James asks this corresponding question: “Can both fresh water and saltwater flow from the same spring?” (James 4:11). James declares a person cannot praise God and curse human beings, who are the imago Dei—the image of the God we are praising.
It is not possible to focus on the destructive behavior of your Christian leader and simultaneously focus on your God-given mission and calling. It is impossible to create hateful plans and at the same time commune with a holy God, asking Him for a vision for your college.
Your productivity can only come from one source. Jesus is quoted as saying, “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad [destructive] tree bears bad [destructive] fruit” (Matthew 7:17).
Overcome destructive behavior: Decline warrior status. Decline political status. Decline revenge.
In Part 4 of this series we will continue biblical best practices for overcoming destructive behavior—“catch and release” and “closing the dump.”
This is an excerpt from INCOMING! How to Survive Destructive Behavior of Your Local Christian Leaders, by Dr. Bruce Cannon: [email protected]