Caught in the act

Luke 12.45-46

‘But suppose the servant says to himself, “My master is taking a long time in coming,” and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.’

Continuing the parable of the unexpected return of the master of the house Jesus addresses one of the most difficult issues for the church in our current age – abusive leadership. Peter had asked, “is this story for us (your special disciples) or for all?”  Jesus answer makes it clear that he is including all those who are in leadership positions continuing beyond his earthly mission. “The future tenses in vs 42-48 must refer to the situation in the church after the departure of Jesus. In fact all the parables in this section refer in their present setting to the period after the resurrection of Jesus and before his second coming.” (New Bible Commentary, D.A. Carson Jesus also teaches, there are degrees of responsibility depending upon their level of knowledge. John 12.47-48 Jesus summarised this with, ‘Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” John 12.48b

The period of waiting has now reached two millennia and in that time there have been a great many ‘abusive servants’. The period of waiting exposes the heart of the self-serving servant. Abuse of others is the antithesis of Christ’s character and it happens when the servant places himself where Christ should be. All for me rather than all for Jesus. It is revealed in personal behaviour illustrated by Jesus in the servant, eating, drinking and getting drunk. However, it includes all self-indulgent actions and attitudes. It is also directed at others, Jesus uses the example of physically beating  others. However, abuse includes spiritual abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and emotional abuse and is worryingly common at all levels of responsibility within the church. On occasion those who are loving in public are abusive in private. Abuse is frequently tolerated, usually denied and often covered up in fear of people’s opinion as opposed to fear of God.

Jesus’ delay in his return is an act of God’s grace, however it also exposes whether those in positions of responsibility are continuing their journey of sanctification or indeed ever were truly a disciple. Mathew records Jesus stark warning, ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ Mathew7.21

How distinctively Christ like is the leadership within the church?

How aware of the subtleties of abuse are we?

Who are we living for?

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