Tree of Life Ministries, Inc.
As a minister, I have been troubled through the years with situations in persons’ lives where they have been grievously abused or injured by another member of the Church. In a very high percentage of lives, members and leaders, alike, report that they have been wounded materially and spiritually by another member of the Body and that the relationship is broken.
The news has been full of reported abuses by a leader, pastor, priest, choir leader, cell group leader, or some other leader in the Body of Christ that a member looked to for integrity and right treatment. While leaders, rightly, are held to a higher standard by God and man, we must not limit our focus to the wrongs done by them.
The most grievous and more common of personal wrongs in the Body occur member to member: in family life, between peers, close acquaintances, and in business. Whether a vertical or a horizontal relationship, true injustice does occur, and more often than we may wish to admit. Injustice must be measured by not only the reported wounds, but by the loss of unity and vision in the Body of Christ because of broken relationships.
My thesis is that righteousness and justice must function at the member level of the Church first. If established by leaders through biblical instruction, functional support and the grace of God, then the results will make the church a very attractive place compared to secular society.
Usually, ministers think of justice in terms of church discipline where sinners are rebuked or dismissed from the congregation, but this position makes no allowance for settling of disputes, or healing of relationships. I truly believe that the church has an obligation to its members to instruct, empower and enforce principles of righteousness so that there is equity and harmony among the members and relationships are healed. This would be a better concept of what justice is all about.
If the reader will consider the condition of the Body of Christ in America, you will see the corporate weakness, the disunity, the burned out hearts, the clouded minds, the crippled dreams of individuals, and the absence of any meaningful vision that unifies the Church in America. I offer that patterns that produce justice rather than injury can be established. When Kingdom justice is working, the church will be healthy, and again be the Light on a hill.
Often, in situations of wrong being done to a Christian by a Christian, the wronged party will feel they have no recourse within the Church and have no hope of things being made right. Most Christians would never even think that the Church should, could, or would be a source of reconciliatory services. There is little hope that the relationship itself will ever be the same. The idea today is to, “Get over it and move on,” leaving the messy fragments of the broken relationship to be taken care of by time and forgetfulness.
The advice injured Christians receive from Christian friends and clergy alike is “You just need to forgive and forget,” or “Get over it and go on,” or “God wants you to respond with love and mercy in these situations.” This counsel is good for some offenses or insults that occur, and it represents a worthy attitude of forbearance and patience. This counsel also supports injustice in many cases, and fails to provide the deterrent to repeated offenses that swift and sure justice fosters. This counsel also does little, if anything to heal the broken hearted.
Might it be that lacking an institutional method of addressing questions of justice, that we actually abdicate our responsibility before Jesus, and serve forces of evil in the process? Evil is a very real influence in the Church. Suppose that if evil, the spirit of satan, could infiltrate and divert godliness at some level, any level, of Church life. If this could happen then we serving a master who is not the Lord Jesus, and the fruits of this service would become known.
Perhaps what we do in the name of Love may be a concession to evil in some cases. It is easier to give way to evil, and call it being kind, than to confront sin. It seems to me that evil is the winner if there is no means to obtaining justice in the church. If, however, justice is established, then a great deal of extant evil can be corrected and deterred. We would then be serving righteousness and justice by our means and by our ends.
As we begin to test what is the true will of the Lord in administering justice, we discover that we are wrestling with spiritual wickedness at many levels. We are beginning to understand how much courage it will require to do the right things for God’s people, and how much opposition wicked spirits will raise to our attempts to establish justice in the Church. Those ministers and members who are weak of heart for the fight to come should put these words aside for now.
We ministers are also called to be agents of Righteousness, Justice, Love and Faithfulness, the foundations of the throne of Jesus Christ. (Psalm 89) In the local perspective, we ministers are responsible, through the churches, to administer justice for the maintenance of integrity in the Body. If we do not plant justice, then certainly, injustice will overgrow our vineyards.
I realize that when face to face with individuals and real life that the “larger view” is difficult to keep in focus, however we must revisit our roles as healers of hurts that hinder the function of the Body. Thinking, planning in advance on how to administer justice, and mingling in a fair amount of preaching on the patterns of practical personal justice will do much to better present the Kingdom of God v. the predominate world culture. It is my hope that a guide to Church justice will provide substantive help for the establishment of a function that is close to the savior’s heart, and that will bring healing reconciliation to His people.
Additionally, we are called to be healers of the wounded, searchers of the lost, deliverers from demons: Shepherds of His sheep. My whole interest in writing and speaking about justice in the Church is for the therapeutic benefit it will bring to the injured, the settlement of disputes, the restoration it will bring in relationships, and the unity that can be produced in any church family. These are idealistic hopes, I know, but I also am convinced that Jesus has spoken and that he will do these things.
We intend to keep it simple; as simple as we can for now, to add materials, and revise what we write as we go along. One only needs to look at a secular law library to know how complex justice can become. We desire to focus on the elementary truths of Scripture seeking simple, and therefore, workable solutions for the local church.
As we, together, prove that justice can work in the church, we will add healing, reconciliation and unity to the Body of Christ
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.” NIV
“14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Loving kindness and truth go before You. 15 How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance. 16 In Your name they rejoice all the day, And by Your righteousness they are exalted. “ NAS