“Now’s your opportunity!” David’s men whispered to him. “Today the Lord is telling you, ‘I will certainly put your enemy into your power, to do with as you wish.’” So David crept forward and cut off a piece of the hem of Saul’s robe. But then David’s conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul’s robe. “TheLord knows I shouldn’t have done that to my lord the king,” he said to his men. “The Lord forbid that I should do this to my lord the king and attack the Lord’s anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him.” So David restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul.
The comment my friend (also a United Methodist minister) made on the story was Start of a trend? Well, I think not; this is rather a continuation of a much older trend than the United Methodist Church. For an analogy, consider Lot as having belonged to the Abraham denomination. Not being able to stay together, there was separation. Cain and Abel’s separation was not so amicable. My comment posted on my friend’s wall was that at least The Grove church left with civility. After all, not everyone’s able to be content with the connection we United Methodists still hold dear. Some are meant to “strike-out” to blaze new independent trails. I pray for “The Grove” that their trail leads to where God is pointing.
What of us who choose to stay with the old UMC ship? I can only speak for myself. I’m like young David. After more than 20 years serving in another denomination, I was tired, emotionally and spiritually from the struggle of that group’s typical church politics, which (in the places where I served) always included open bickering and blaming. No matter where the storm started, the pastor was usually the lightning rod that drew the volts of criticism. Now, that’s part of the job description of a shepherd – protect the sheep, fight the wolves, and don’t ever get the two mixed up.
I came to the point of either having to lash-out at the denomination which ordained me and was my home for 27 years….or leave. After a period of prayer, soul-searching and waiting, God opened the United Methodist door, and I gladly limped through. What I found was a gracious, soft place to regain my ministry bearings and inner composure.
David hadn’t done anything wrong, other than try to serve his king (Saul). Saul repaid David’s loyalty with loathing and attack; he chased David, tried to hunt him down like a wild dog. At one point, however, David found himself in a cave standing over a sleeping King Saul. He could have erased his tough situation with one thrust of his sword. Instead, David withstood the impulse. On a much deeper level than even he understood at that moment, David knew you don’t mess with the Lord’s anointed (see verse 6).
So, that’s where I am (was). I found myself standing over opportunity to lash-out at my former denomination – make a great splashy-loud exit and justify Russell’s righteousness in his own mind. God saved me from myself and allowed me to leave for a kinder, gentler place.
Result: Like David, my hands and heart were preserved from the kind of sin to which I’m prone.
Been wronged lately?
What are you standing over?
And where will the road you choose lead you to?
May I offer “The Grove Church” as an example? If you can’t do good where you’re standing, don’t bludgeon and bash the lightning rod as you see it…you may just be messing with the Lord’s anointed. Rather, seek the place where God will give you opportunity – and do it with civility and grace.