Jomaix’s comment got me thinking about the pain that elders can cause when they abuse their power. I don’t pretend to know the situation that Jomaix’s brother is going through, nor am I in a position to pass judgment. However, there are many other situations involving the abuse of power in our organization that I have been privy to and of which I have firsthand knowledge. Over the decades these number well into double digits. If my experience in this is anything to go by, there is evidently a shocking amount of misconduct among those who are charged with caring for the flock of Christ.
The cruelest and most damaging betrayal is that which comes from the most trusted of friends or brothers. We are taught that the brothers are different, a cut above the religions of the world. That assumption can be the source of much pain. Yet the scriptures are wondrous in displaying the foreknowledge of God. He has forewarned us so that we should not be caught off-guard.
(Matthew 7:15-20) “Be on the watch for the false prophets that come to YOU in sheep’s covering, but inside they are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruits YOU will recognize them. Never do people gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? 17 Likewise every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit; 18 a good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, neither can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. 19 Every tree not producing fine fruit gets cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Really, then, by their fruits YOU will recognize those [men].
We read texts like this one and nonchalantly apply it to the religious leaders of Christendom because, of course, these words could never apply to any of us. Yet some of the elders have shown themselves to be ravenous wolves who have eaten up the spirituality of some of the little ones. Yet, there is no reason for us to be caught unawares. Jesus has given us the measuring yard: “by their fruits YOU will recognize those men.” Elders should be producing a fine fruitage, such that we will want to imitate their conduct as we see how they faith works out. (Heb.13:7)
(Acts 20:29) . . .I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among YOU and will not treat the flock with tenderness,
This prophecy had to come true because it comes from God. But was its fulfillment to conclude once the modern-day organization emerged? I personally have seen elders treat the flock without tenderness, but with oppression. I’m sure we can all think of one or more we have known who fall into this category. Sure, this text aptly describes the situation in Christendom, but it would be ingenuous for any of us to think that its application stops outside our Kingdom hall doors.
Those elders who would imitate their master, the Great Shepherd, would reflect the quality he spoke of to his apostles just prior to his death:
(Matthew 18:3-5) . . .“Truly I say to YOU, Unless YOU turn around and become as young children, YOU will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens. 4 Therefore, whoever will humble himself like this young child is the one that is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens; 5 and whoever receives one such young child on the basis of my name receives me [also].
So we must look for true humility in our elders and if we find an abusive one, we will see that the fruitage he is bearing is not that of humility but pride, and so we will not be surprised by his behaviour. Saddened, Yes, but surprised and caught off-guard, No. It is precisely because we assume these men are all acting as they should that we are so offended and even stumbled when it turns out that they are not what they have pretended to be. Nevertheless, Jesus gave us this warning which we again happily apply to the leaders of Christendom while blithely assuming we are virtually exempt from its application.
(Matthew 18:6) 6 But whoever stumbles one of these little ones who put faith in me, it is more beneficial for him to have hung around his neck a millstone such as is turned by an ass and to be sunk in the wide, open sea.
This is a powerful metaphor! Is there another sin to which it is attached? Are the practicers of spiritism described thus? Will the fornicators be thrown into the sea chained to giant stones? Why is this horrific end assigned only to those who, though charged with feeding and caring for the little ones, are found to be abusing them and causing them to stumble? A rhetorical question if ever I saw one.
(Matthew 24:23-25) . . .“Then if anyone says to YOU, ‘Look! Here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones. 25 Look! I have forewarned YOU.
Christ, in Greek, means “anointed one”. So false prophets and false anointed ones will arise and try to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones. Is this referring only to those in Christendom; those outside the modern Christian Congregation. Or will there arise from within our ranks such ones? Jesus did say emphatically, “Look! I have forewarned YOU”
If we find ourselves the subjects of abuse by those who should be the source of comfort and refreshment, we must not let that stumble us. We have been forewarned. These things must come to pass. Remember, Jesus was abused, ridiculed, tortured and killed by prominent members of Jehovah’s first century organization—just a few decades before he did away with them all.