Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

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I had occasion to do a little research recently on a well-known evangelical figure. I knew the name, having come across it in several of our denomination’s old publications. But someone had passed on some disturbing news about this man and I thought I’d check it out. The picture was not pretty. He ended badly. Last night in prayer meeting, the group leader shared some thoughts from the lives of several Old Testament kings. The same scenario—begin well, end badly. The opposite can be true as well, but often our attention is only drawn to those who end badly.

The disturbing thing about these examples is that these men were leaders. A leader has followers and as is expected of followers, they follow. If the example is bad; well, you don’t have to strain your brain to figure out what the results are.

In Matthew 23, the Lord has some choice words for the religious leaders of His day. Jesus warned people to be careful how they responded to their leaders. The Pharisees and teachers of the law liked to be called by the title of “Rabbi,” which means “My Master.” Jesus warned His disciples that they were not to follow the example of these men:

But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:8-12).

It’s not often we call anyone “master.” But we do use the title “father” and “teacher” often. But the point was, and is, that all three are titles of authority—spiritual authority in this case. And while due respect needs to be given to those who have the greater responsibility for the well-being of the Body of Christ, we, and they, need to remember who is the Head of that body and who, ultimately, is the One to whom we all will give account.

In the first example I cited, the man I researched came to believe that his word was God’s word to his congregation and that he was above the laws that he insisted others adhere to. The Pharisees found themselves in a similar situation. They insisted others follow God’s law and, while they put on a good public show of conformity to what they demanded of others, in private they did what they wanted.

Jesus’ instructions to the disciples are a warning to leaders to not think of themselves more highly than they ought. They are to serve in humility. His instructions are also a warning to followers not to drink the Kool-Aid (as in the Jonestown mass suicide) just because a leader says to do so. Our Master, our Father, our Teacher, is God, and to Him we must pay the closest attention. Everything must go through the filter of His Word and He is our ultimate authority in all things.

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