Two Lawyers and God’s Government

Having given some sermons recently on God’s approach to government as depicted in Scripture, the passage I came across in an article I read tonight was just too good (in my opinion) not to pass along.

It was an article in the magazine The Home School Report, sent out regularly by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) of which we are members.  The article “The Mississippi Five and the Case of the Missing Case” was a really good one illustrating how some judges can too easily assume much, much more power than they actually have (thankfully, the Supreme Court of Mississippi saw it the same way), and one detail in the article seemed written with God’s approach to government in mind.

Oddly, perhaps, it wasn’t anything related to the actual “governmental” issues on which the article focused. Rather, it concerned the relationship between two of the HSLDA lawyers working on the case (or, as it were, the non-case, which was the issue at hand).

The unique legal situation in Mississippi demanding immediate action was brought to the attention of HSLDA Director of Litigation and author of the article, Jim Mason (as he says in the byline: No relation to Perry).  Realizing the scope of what they would be dealing with, he brought it to the attention of HSLDA Board Chairman and one of its two founding lawyers, Michael Farris.  After Mr. Farris, a very busy man, read the information brought to him by Mr. Mason, he looked up and said, “I know what I’m doing for the rest of the day.”

Without going into the details of what they had to address and had to address quickly on behalf of homeschoolers in Mississippi (which they did successfully, by the way), let me simply say that it required immediate action to create necessary filings the very next day involving analysis of a very novel situation.

That said, it was Mr. Jim Mason’s description of how he and Mr. Michael Farris, his boss, worked together — in that instance and generally — that grabbed my attention unexpectedly:

“After working on dozens of cases together, Mike and I have developed a working relationship that lends itself to quick, decisive, but careful action. Mike is bold, aggressive, and optimistic. He immediately sees the big picture and focuses on the pros.

“I am more cautious, worry about the details, and think about the precise legal theories and all of the objections to each. My mind runs quickly to the cons.

“These early legal discussions tend to be vigorous, freewheeling, sometimes heated, but always collegial and respectful. Mike does me the great honor of listening to my objections and taking them seriously. He knows that I in turn will cheerfully defer to his final decision and work hard to carry it out even if a few minutes before I was vigorously arguing against it.”

That working relationship, so described, was so good a picture of something I’ve tried to describe that I was surprisingly excited to read it.  In particular, it was that last paragraph.  Mr. Mason speaks of the freedom the two of them have to be honest with each other and to express strong opinions, even if different.  He speaks of the fact that although Michael Farris is the one who will ultimately call the shots he listens sincerely to Mr. Mason’s objections and disagreements to consider them seriously.  And he points out that Mr. Farris, in turn, knows with confidence that once he makes the call, Mr. Mason will devote himself to making that call work, even if it was not at all the way that he recommended it should go.

(Actually, my “summary” of their relationship is longer than the one Mr. Mason wrote, and his description makes the points better!  Forget you read that last paragraph and go read his last paragraph again.  The last three sentences are gold.)

That is exactly what God wants to see in the governments that He ordains.  There IS a head in those governments.  There IS someone who must, when it comes down to it, call the shots!  Such a person should listen to those under him — listen to their advice and counsel (Prov. 11:14, 15:22, 24:6) and search out their perspectives (Prov. 20:5), even if the resulting opinions differ greatly from the one he brought to the discussion.  Then that head makes the call.  (Because someone always has to make the call!)  Once he does, those under him work to make it happen, even if they had been advising the opposite the moment before.

That this arrangement exists in the God Family is clear and in God’s design for the human family is clear (1 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 5:22-33, Luke 22:42, et al.).  That such principles apply in the New Testament Church — just as surely as they did in the “Old Testament Church” (e.g., Exodus 18:13-26) — is unpopular to say, but that doesn’t make it false.  Nor does the unpopularity of the principle remove the truth that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), and that it is only sensible to think that the government that He has experienced since eternity, that He personally placed within the family, and that He will be implementing in His Kingdom during the Millennium and for all eternity, would not be the same one that He would implement within His own Body, the Church.

(Side note: Some might say from this, “What if the ministry goes ‘off the rails’ and begins to apostatize? You’re demanding that we follow them over a cliff and put them before God!”  Please.  1 Cor. 11:1 is still in the Bible!  Just because a wife is commanded to submit to her husband does not mean that she must murder, steal, etc. at his command, right?  And yet, do such situations nullify God’s clear commands about government in marriage?  Sincere questions about how one can determine that a government has abandoned God and, thus, abandoned its legitimacy can be profitable to discuss, and I enjoy such discussion — and, thankfully, the Bible gives us guidance and direction.  But sadly questions like these are too often used to justify throwing out these principles, not understanding them more clearly.  And that’s a shame.)

I know I’ve written about such things before, but seeing in print these principles at work in these two lawyers was encouraging.  If they can get it, others can, too.  Like gravity, God’s approach to government works whether you believe in it or not.

17 thoughts on “Two Lawyers and God’s Government

  1. Your second-to-last paragraph is gold too. Where there’s a conflict, we must always obey God rather than man (as Peter told the Sanhedrin). So long as people are working within the framework of the principles of God’s government, though, legitimate disagreements can happen and someone has to decide between them. “On my own head be it if I’m wrong” applies here.

    One might call this paragraph platinum and I thank you for it too:

    That is exactly what God wants to see in the governments that He ordains. There IS a head in those governments. There IS someone who must, when it comes down to it, call the shots! Such a person should listen to those under him — listen to their advice and counsel (Prov. 11:14, 15:22, 24:6) and search out their perspectives (Prov. 20:5), even if the resulting opinions differ greatly from the one he brought to the discussion. Then that head makes the call. (Because someone always has to make the call!) Once he does, those under him work to make it happen, even if they had been advising the opposite the moment before.

  2. obeirne

    This is what I like to hear and see. I can’t think of anything that could add to it that would enhance this message.

  3. Norbert

    That working relationship is quite often seen in my line of work, which is more physical, technical and artistic in nature. Restoring classical and antique vehicles or building them into hot rods.

    It’s hard to deny the capablities of individuals when you can literally see them consistently displayed in front of your eyes. So when a competent worker does voice up an objection or an alternate view to how the work should be done, the boss or fellow workers tend to pay attention. Even when something other than the car is turning hot.

    I believe one reason for having a respectful working relationship is the need to be aware of and see the other person’s talents.

  4. Valentin

    Well I’m glad I stumbled upon Mr. Smith’s blog, thanks for linking this in Facebook Deano. I really enjoyed this article and agree the way those 2 lawyers described the respectful but both agreed upon “51/49” relationship was awesome. I love that the leader will genuinely consider the feedback from the subordinate even if it’s disagreeable and that the subordinate will wholly backup the leader once the decision is made even if he disagreed. Can you imagine how many marriages would be saved and more joyous if this Biblical principle would be obeyed? And I love the conclusion (if I may rephrase in my own words) to point out that if men or churches really get far away from God’s Way, Law and Truth that that is not a problem of God’s good and holy Way, Law and Truth that is a problem of those choosing to abandon it. We should not look for loose bricks to rationalize disobedience or rebellion to God’s church government and authority. If a Minister tells you to do (or refrain from) something and it is not clearly in violation of God’s law, we must submit to authority because we will ALWAYS be under authority!

  5. Norbert

    Valentin,

    What about Matt 18:15 Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother?

    Were an elder to tell a person to refrain from something that is not clearly in violation of God’s law, something like to stop driving their Hot Rod to services every week. Of course by just submitting that would bury that problem but it could also be like burying one’s head in the sand and doing an injustice against the elder imo.

    In my view having a problem about authority does not discriminate between an elder or any other member of the Church. It is just as possible that an elder have a problem using authority as another member submitting to authority. I believe a person should concider that sometimes by just submitting, may only be the easy way out, even when someone like Peter is found to be in error.

    A rather interesting scenario occured to me about how authority is used by the Church and the following comment is made for the discussion in general. There are names of participants that reflect those of actual people living today but the events are those from the Church in the past.

    When Paul confronted Peter about eating with the Gentiles, it does read as if he wasn’t exactly following Mt 18:15 by expressing himself in front of everyone first rather than initially going to Peter in private about the problem. Peter was there when Jesus spoke those words and they are part of a chapter that contains the thought of who shall be greatest. Now try and picture Wallace Smith and Roderick Meredith at a pot luck together under similiar circumstances.

    Would Wallace be guilty of not following Mt 18:15 and Roderick remind him of that or does what Paul did back then set precidence? Perhaps the analogy is somewhat off and such a circumstance is more akin to have Denny Luker and Roderick Meredith at the potluck? Any thoughts?

  6. Valentin

    Hello Norbert and thank you for stimulating my mind on this pretty important topic.

    Although a highly unlikely scenario, yes, if an elder or other ordained man in God’s church told me to stop driving a hot rod or some other request that was not clearly a violation of any of God’s laws, I would do it. However if that was my only means of transportation to services I would certainly discuss the matter with him to see what his underlying thoughts on it are and if he still insisted I would respectfully request we counsel together with his superior on the matter. If the “strange request” persisted, I would pray and fast about it, never talking bad or gossiping about that elder for his request. I want to practice submission and obedience, not to make a habit of questioning and reasoning around instructions from my superiors. One scripture that comes to mind is submitting to governing authorities (so long as doing so doesn’t break God’s law). If we are to be submissive to civil authorities in areas that don’t involve God’s law, how much more so God’s church government? The same principle applies to marriage. God ordained man as having the authority to make the final decisions and for the wife to submit and support those final decisions once made. Would I want a wife who continually resists me and says “I don’t want to do what you say because it’s not directly relating to God’s law”? That would be quite challenging. Another scripture that had a big impact on my thinking when I read it years ago is Deuteronomy 17:8-13.

    If you are referring to the 2nd half of Galatians 2, that may not be a detailed account of all that occurred surrounding those events and even so I am not wise/mature enough to make a firm determination whether Paul publicly calling out Peter on that issue was pleasing or displeasing to God. For example verse 11 makes it possible that Paul first met privately with Peter, and perhaps afterwards with a few witnesses. But anyway, I would not look to every single word or behavior of Biblical heroes (other than Christ) as doctrine because they were humans and sometimes made mistakes. King David committing adultery is an obvious example. Some early NT church leaders pointing to the necessity of “physical circumcision according to the law of Moses” is a not so obvious example. Nevertheless I want to look at the overall lives recorded in the Bible of these heroes as excellent role models and try my best to filter every drawn conclusions thru God’s law of love. If an elder or minister in God’s church has serious flaws or using his authority wrongly, that is not for me to undermine or gossip about him. That is for God to correct or remove that person, if He chooses to, on His timetable and for us lay brethren to patiently wait on God. Have a pleasant Sabbath and Pentecost to everyone!

  7. @Val: you’re welcome!

    @Norbert: I might be just having a hard time understanding your post, but it seems like you are mixing concepts and comparing apples to oranges, so to speak.

    Matt 18:15 is giving a principle to help individuals resolve issues between each other for the strengthening of unity within the Church. A situation with an elder telling a regular member to do something has to do with governmental authority within the Church, at least it seems that way in the way you described it in your scenario. Personally, I find it hard to believe that an elder would tell someone not to drive a specific kind of car to services. What if it was the only car they had? If he told me that, I would try to explain the situation to him, and if that didn’t work I would go to his boss and get the situation straightened out.

    The situation with Peter and Paul doesn’t really fall under Matt 18:15 as far as I can tell. Peter was committing the sin of partiality, and it was hurting everyone within the congregation there; it wasn’t a personal trespass by Peter against Paul, even though Paul was offended buy it. We see in 1 Corinthians 5 another sin that was hurting the whole congregation, and Paul told them to deal with it in front of everyone, when they were gathered together. So it would appear that if an individual is doing something that is degrading and devaluing the whole congregation, it is to be dealt with on a church-wide scale, but a trespass between brethren is to be dealt with privately, otherwise it can potentially become a cause of contention and division between the whole congregation.

    Not sure if this answer fits the bill, but it’s I got for now….

  8. @Norbert & Valentin: At the risk of fulfilling yet another passage, that about meddling in a quarrel not his own (and the analogy thereunto), 🙂 let me point out…

    1) Matthew 18 speaks of something clearly in violation of God’s law in letter or in principle – that is what a “tresspass” is.
    2) Someone who drives a hot rod to services because it’s the only vehicle one has is no offense to anyone or anything. Driving one because its owner has other options but simply wants to show off (evidently, not just in the imagination of someone who doesn’t like hot rods), is an offense. Misusing one’s only option in that way is offensive too. This is a matter of value judgement: of deciding between personal and Godly values. The Christian aim is to be modest, not self-aggrandizing. This sort of thing can affect not just the elder but the congregation. If I were the owner of the hot rod, I’d err on the side of circumspection.
    3) Paul’s rebuke of Peter wasn’t within the guidelines of Matthew 18:15ff because that passage didn’t cover that situation. It wasn’t an offense against one person, but against a whole class of people and against the straightforward truth of the gospel. Peter was being hypocritical and leading away others, even Barnabus, by his hypocrisy – and doing so blatantly and publicly. Paul had to nip that in the bud.
    4) The analogy is partially false on another level because as apostles, Peter and Paul were peers, as Messrs. Meredith and Smith are not. Peter and Paul each had the right of final decision in their own baliwicks – the existence of separation of powers doesn’t deny the need to have a “tie-breaker” in each baliwick. But Peter was the one through whom the truth in question was revealed in the first place – Gentiles are fellow heirs with Israelites in the Gospel – and should’ve known better. This affects the dynamic too.
    5) Paul later admonished Timothy the evangelist to never bring an accusation against an elder except at the testimony of two or three witnesses – and for those who persist in sin, rebuke them publicly (not privately), so that the rest may stand in fear. This is the closest analogy to having Messrs. Meredith and Smith in a similar situation at a potluck.

    The point is that Matthew 18:15 is meant to cover one-on-one relationships, not actions that affect the whole congregation all at once in a profoundly negative way. Mr. Meredith would be well within his rights to rebuke Mr. Smith publicly for such a thing – and were the situation reversed, while the dynamic would be different, I believe that the same action would have to be challenged just as publicly. By entreaty rather than by rebuke, yes, but with no less hesitation.

  9. Norbert

    Thanks, I appreciate the responses but I do believe the idea of ‘an elder telling a person to do or refrain from something that is not clearly in violation of God’s law should be done without question’, is something that should be questioned and discussed. Rakkav concidering the relevancy within this topic about things getting heated, I do hope for the restraint to keep it from escalating into quarrelling because I’d like to know what are the limits to the pastor/congregation relationship? Generally the if so why, if not why? When the scripture says, “Be you not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near to you.” (Ps 32:9) How is that relevant, contrast or compliment doing things without question? Are there also not negative aspects when a pastor is surrounded by congregation of yes-men and women? Albeit I believe God can turn lemons into lemonade either way.

    Also I have wondered about the limits between Mt 18:15 and Gal 2:11-14, is it apples and oranges or is it more like grapefruit and limes? There is also another reason for my intent for posing those scriptures in contrast. It had a little to do with finding out more than my own limited insights between the two. So how much of a one-on-one relationship did Paul have with Peter concidering the kind words given to Paul in 2 Pe 3:15 plus a similiar statement by Paul towards those in Jerusalem, “the right hands of fellowship” in Gal 2:9 and its’ effect on their actions in scripture? Were they behaving as such because they can be likened to Messrs or were they brothers?

    I believe the first century Church was much more than stagnant ink on old leaves of parchment which can only be used for the theorycrafting of any idea and setting it into a modern day mindless and dead stone of tradition, but a living relationship between flesh and blood people not that much disimiliar from our own time. Basically the point being confronted is planting the thought of “If a Minister tells you to do (or refrain from) something and it is not clearly in violation of God’s law, we must submit to authority because we will ALWAYS be under authority!“, would that be a modern day tradition where it may be said as in Mark 7:13, “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such like things do you.“?

  10. Valentin

    [Edit: Forgive me Valentin — I posted your comment originally “as is” until I realized that the first part was probably meant as a comment to me, directly, and not intended as a part of the public post. So, I’ve come back and taken it out . (Forgive me — I’m slow! 🙂 ) I appreciate your attitude and example! (And your Facebook comment is appreciated, too.) Actually, I appreciate all the comments we’ve had so far, as I mention below in my own comment that hopefully wraps things up. — WGS]

    I do not believe the first third of Mark 7 is germane to my firm and passionate stance of “If a Minister tells you to do (or refrain) from something not clearly in violation of God’s law, we should submit to authority.” As I understand it taught from the pulpit, the Pharisees and other strict Jews tried to build a “fence” around the Law of God with the idea that it would help prevent people from violating it, however it had a negative affect because God said “don’t add to or take away from” His Law and many of these man made traditions actually violated God’s Law. These “works of law” traditions is what Paul was saying could not justify you in Galatians. I appreciate recent sermons by Mr. Meredith and Mr. Hall to explain this.

    One of the main themes that I have absorbed and inculcated from the Bible is that God hates a resistant, disloyal, self-willed, rebellious heart. And he loves a lowly, loyal, surrendered, submissive heart. When Korah and company rebelled against Moses, it was clear they rebelled against God. When the Israelites demanded Samuel to give them a human king, they rejected God. I am confident that I have found the Truth and God’s Church and therefore as they continue to imitate Christ, I will happily continue to imitate them and err on the side of submitting to Church government instead of otherwise. I am most concerned with pleasing God on this matter.

  11. Steve

    Agree with the first sentence or two of Norbert’s last comment. A minister has no business micro-managing a person’s life when it has nothing to do with the administration of either God’s law or His work.. Such a relationship directly violates Christ’s role as high priest and head of the church. And quite frankly, it leads to situations like Jim Jones, and others who surrender their will to men.

    The Bible clearly defines the mutual set of obligations and duties between lay members and ministers. One can start with a topical Bible, but it’s more useful to read the NT entirely, and note them as you go along. There is a structure, and the meaning is clear. Nobody should add to or subtract from them.

    I’m only talking about a narrow topic that seems to have cropped up. None of what I said contradicts Mr. Smith’s original post. Quite the opposite. Mr Smith gave one of the best explanations of authority in the church that I’ve ever read. It was very, very much like an old minister named Armstrong.

  12. You know… the first person who ever came up with a “better idea” is Lucifer. My human carnal nature says, “Don’t tell me what to do!” and that in itself is an indication that I should do the exact opposite, and do what I was told to do. In its more subtle form it asks, “Is that really the best way to handle this? Really, I think this might be a better idea”. Although the attitude of the elder who is giving orders can have a lot to do with the way things work out. Perhaps the elder is using wisdom, when so doing, to test an individual to see what their attitude is. More importantly, maybe God is using the elder to test the individual to look at their attitude, and/or to teach either or both of them lessons. .

    Consider Abraham when God instructed him to break the commandment and make a human sacrifice of his son, Isaac. When it came down to it Abraham probably had a difficult time understanding “why”, but he knew God was faithful and had promised that Isaac was the son through whom the blessings would come. Because of Abraham’s obedience to in fact do something that WAS in direct violation of the law, God stayed his hand and blessed him immeasurably, because He knew He could trust him (Gen 22:12). Do we fear God or are we concerned about our “rights”?

    Lemons – limes – grapefruits – oranges – apples – figs – taters – whatever… they’re not the same. It’s not that the Matt 18:15 cannot be applied between and elder and a lay member, it can, but it is still a personal matter between two individuals.

    “The situation with Peter and Paul doesn’t really fall under Matt 18:15 as far as I can tell. Peter was committing the sin of partiality, and it was hurting everyone within the congregation there; it wasn’t a personal trespass by Peter against Paul, even though Paul was offended buy it. We see in 1 Corinthians 5 another sin that was hurting the whole congregation, and Paul told them to deal with it in front of everyone, when they were gathered together. So it would appear that if an individual is doing something that is degrading and devaluing the whole congregation, it is to be dealt with on a church-wide scale, but a trespass between brethren is to be dealt with privately, otherwise it can potentially become a cause of contention and division between the whole congregation.”

    In short “by pride comes nothing but strife”. If it isn’t something that directly violates the law, or your understanding of the law, i.e. not sinning against your conscience, you should probably just go ahead and do it. If the elder is wrong in his attitude, be faithful and take it God and He will take care of it, if it is really there.

    I’d like to hear Mr. Smith’s take on all of this 🙂

  13. I have enjoyed listening in on this discussion, and my thanks to everyone for how they’ve conducted themselves! I’ve refrained from jumping in for a variety of reasons–among them: (1) I was enjoying how it developed without me, and (2) I’ve been too busy to do anything more than tap the “accept” button on my iPhone.

    But before I jump into camp prep for the rest of the day, let me say a few words. Ha! That sounded funny even as I typed it… OK, not a “few.” I’ll speak at length, because (1) it’s my modus operandi, and (2) I’m hoping to cover my thoughts in a way that I won’t have to do any “redos.”

    I believe that there is a bit of truth in all that has been brought up and all I can do is comment on my personal approach to such things and how it squares with Scripture and the Living Church of God’s pastoral policies.

    Scripturally there are several passages that come into play, none of which contradict the others–all add to the picture, not take away from it. FOr instance, Hebrews 13:17 says “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” For all the arguing amongst some over the words “obey” and “rule,” we can all agree that it speaks to an attitude of broad deference being commanded, while also highlighting that those to whom we defer will be judged by God for how will they have “ruled” for the benefit of others. Of course, also, there’s 2 Cor. 1:24, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand” (KJV), which guides how a minister should exercise his responsibilities and authority (fits well with Matt. 10:42-43).

    And we have 1 Peter 5:1-5, which concisely sums up both sentiments in one passage: “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

    When both elements are in play is when the beauty of God’s government shines brightest. As Deborah and Barak sing in Judges 5:2, “When leaders lead in Israel, When the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the LORD!” — even more concise than 1 Peter 5. 🙂

    So, the real question is: What do we do when one side of this arrangement is practicing it imperfectly? It’s an important question for one simple reason: It will always happen — on this side of the resurrection, at least. Until Christ returns from heaven, we will not have a perfect pastor. And only when He does and we are changed will we be sinless and in perfect submission to His will.

    So, how do we handle the inevitable imperfection? As always, we strive to do our part to the best of our ability, whether or not the other side is doing so. In this, we give God and Jesus Christ the greatest amount of freedom to work. How to do this in practice takes wisdom, for which we have been given wonderful promises (James 1:5).

    Before bringing up the case that has been discussed here, let me add the other perspective: what about one who is not submitting well? — That is, what about the hypothetical scenario in which a minister has to deal with a member who isn’t as submissive to right, well-practiced authority as he or she ought to be?

    I think we’d want the minister to make that call carefully, right? For instance, if the member isn’t truly trying to be rebellious or cause division, but simply has a bit of “onery” to work out in his life, then we’d hope the minister can be understanding and be a source of help and instruction for such a one. I know of a circumstance in which a member was a bit upset with the decision of a minister and who let him know about it in not the most respectful terms. The minister could have taken offense, said, “You need to speak to me more respectfully,” etc. and, under some circumstances that may have been the proper response. In this case, the minister discerned that it such action was unncessary and simply said, “I appreciate your position — all I ask is that you give the decision time to bear fruit and look at it then.” I believe the minister made the right call there and was giving the individual not only time to judge the circumstance, but time to judge him as well. Rather than demand that person’s immediate respect, he merely asked for time to earn it. Being compelled by the member to walk a mile, he chose to walk two.

    At the same time, had that member been making a bigger stink, corralling others and trying to foment some sort of angry spirit in other members, that would have been a very different circumstance–in such a case, for the protection of others–and, perhaps, the member, himself–he would have been compelled by the circumstance to act with protective and definite authority, as did Paul on occasion. But he judged that this was only one person, and a person whom he wanted, if possible, to win by his conduct rather than force with his authority. The latter would have been lawful, to be sure, but in this case not helpful. It was reminiscent of Paul’s overlooking, when he did not have to, the Corinthians’ stubborn refusal to support his ministry financially because he had a bigger goal than gaining their support: gaining them.

    So, what of the hypothetical case that was brought up: Valentin’s hypothetical hot rod! 🙂

    For the record, I like hot rods. ( 🙂 #2) But for the sake of the discussion, let me try to craft a realistic scenario in which such a “ban” could take place where I am the minister…

    Valentin: Why don’t you want me to ride my hot rod to Church? Is it a sin?
    Me: Well, some of the residents at the retirement home where we meet for services have complained that it’s loud when you pull up.
    Valentin: But Mr. Smith, you know that’s not true–it’s no louder than any of the other cars. In fact, some of the residents there like to come out and talk about it. Besides, our other car has no air conditioning, and coming in that would be hard on my family.
    Me: I understand that and can appreciate the spot this puts you in, but I’ve thought about it a lot and I think we should try and go the ‘extra mile’ here.

    (Imagine conversationing going on for a while, in which each continues to disagree with the other. Then we see two possible endings, both of which I — or Hypothetical I — should be just fine with.)

    Ending #1:
    Valentin: Well, Mr. Smith, I don’t agree that it should be necessary, but we’re willing to try if you want us to.
    Me: I really appreciate that, Valentin, and I know you’re making a sacrifice here. Please let me know if you think it gets to be too hard on you, and I will be sure to let you know if the situation changes.

    Ending #2:
    Valentin: Mr. Smith, I see where you’re coming from, but I just can’t agree. I can’t, in good conscience, burden my family like that. We won’t drive the hot rod next week, but in the meantime I think I would like to talk to the Regional Pastor about this. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I really would like his take.
    Me: That’s fine, Valentin, and no offense taken. If he thinks we should handle it differently I’d certainly like to know about it. Do you have his number or do you need me to get it for you?

    (FYI: On ending #2, this is in line with our Pastoral Policy Manual in the Living Church of God (pp.3-10 & 3-11) which states that a church member should be able to appeal to the next level in authority on a matter of conscience. After all, those in authority are, themselves, under authority. All authority is rooted in that authority’s submission to those over him (e.g., 1 Cor. 11:3), even–in a sense–God’s authority, since we can reliably count on Him to faithfully submit to Himself (2 Tim 2:13). But that discussion is for another day. 🙂 )

    I can say that I have mentioned to all of my congregations that if they every feel the need, they are free to talk to Mr. Greer (my regional pastor) if they have a strong disagreement with a decision I have made. I would appreciate it if they would talk to me, first, as their brother, but, still, they should feel welcome to do so. Personally, if a church member under my care were truly bothered by something I decided but felt too intimidated to speak to me about it, I would hope they would speak to Mr. Greer (or, if I were a regional pastor, to Dr. Winnail). I would much rather them have that option than to sit there feeling “trapped” with nowhere to go, which is a hard place to be.

    To try and sum all of this up, God’s government does work, and it’s up to us — as living, breathing, imperfect people — to seek wholeheartedly to wisely work within it, for that’s where the best outcomes are. Do some ministers make unwise decisions? You bet. (Count me as one of them!) Do some members fail to submit as fully as they should? You bet. (Count me as one of them!) Just like in a marriage: Do some husbands fail to lead properly as they should? You bet. (Count me as one of them!) And do some wives fail to submit as they should? You bet. (Count me as… OK, well, I’m not a wife, but you get what I’m saying.) However, if we — as imperfect as we are — are all committed to striving to doing things God’s way in love and mutual respect, then these hypothetical “bumps” have a chance to get smoothed out in practice and over time.

    Part of making a marriage work in the beautiful and inspired framework that God designed is each party’s willingness to give the other a benefit of a doubt and a healthy bit of leeway. It’s no different with any other group of humans putting God’s government into practice.

    Again, I appreciate the discussion y’all have had here — actually, both the discussion and the generally respectful way in which you’ve conducted it. A number of good comments have been made, and I’ve enjoyed reading them. Hopefully my take here has been helpful.

  14. J Lacerenza

    I think that much rather have a Godly man writing the laws and regulations that govern us than a Weiner any day , futher more the Godly Government that Meredith talks about is already here , we invoked God much the same way the Clerics did when they assembled the bible only our delegates invoked Gods blessings when we assembled the Constitution , Read the Book which is comming out soon called MAN GREED AND THE ECONOMY , it tells exactly whats going to happen

  15. Thanks for commenting, Mr. Lacerenza, but though I am a fan of the Constitution I can’t agree that it represents God’s form of government. It takes more than simply “invoking” God to accomplish the sort of feat you imagine. The Constitution (and Bill of Rights) offers the same protections to both the printing of the Bible and the printing of pornography. To imagine that God is pleased with such a state of affairs is nonsensical.

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