A short time ago, I offered a Facebook reply to another person's post, which was met with quite a bit of criticism. I was accused by one respondent of harboring "animus" toward a certain high-profile Christian pastor, whom I had firmly indicted in my reply. It is true that I used rather harsh language to describe this leader's actions, but I can say with reasonable confidence that I do not hold any ill-will toward him; I'm merely critical of his offensive, arrogant, and manipulative ministry tactics. Indeed, I believe he is doing more to harm the cause of Christ than he is to draw sinners to the cross . . . but that is an entirely different subject and deserves its own blog post.
On the present point, I was quite distraught for a number of days regarding my own censure. Although I defended myself on Facebook, I was admittedly embarrassed. I'm a pastor, so to be charged with "animus" is unconscionable to me, not because pastors are immune to it, but because nurturing hostility is so antithetical to the ministry endeavor. Who wants to be served by a pastor whose goal is revenge, whose motivation is hate, or whose focus is the impartation of pain on others? I did not want my name aligned with any of these unfortunate human desires. So, I backed away from the conversation, hoping few of my friends and even fewer strangers would read the exchange I had with my accuser.
But the word "animus" kept pinging in my head, and the question of culpability assaulted me every night as I lay staring into the soft shadows on my bedroom ceiling. And then the epiphany occurred. Last night I realized I do indeed give refuge to feelings of animus; I am guilty of maintaining hostility in my heart. I sometimes grit my teeth and clinch my fists. But it's not what you're probably thinking. You see, my animus is not directed at any individual. No person keeps me up at night or consumes my thoughts. But what I do hate . . . with passionate resolve . . . is the existence of church leaders who malign the name of Christ by perpetrating immoral and/or unethical activity or by conducting themselves in ways that besmirch the grace, mercy, and love that should define God's people. I also hate that the larger church has become--for reasons of greed, arrogance, and isolationism--only a caricature of its divine intent. My animus, in other words, is not a selfish desire to "get back" at anyone or to assuage my own pride or pain, but it is, I truly believe, a righteous indignation in defense of our Lord and the ideal of His church. In other words, my rage is not against people; it is against the machinery of the church, which has largely become rusted, bent, and broken.
Of course, I would be a consummate liar or self-deceiver if I didn't admit my imperfection in all of this. I know without a doubt my righteous indignation is not 100% pure. There are certainly elements of pride and pain that contaminate my anger, and I must labor, by the Spirit's power and wisdom, to cleanse myself of these impurities. When Christ flipped the tables of the money changers, he did so with a clear conscience; however, I must always be quick to steady my own hand and recognize the money changer in the mirror, lest I too hastily stand in judgment of others and, thus, condemn myself. Even so, I will not apologize for the egregious sins of others within the church, nor will I ignore their sins out of some false sense of humility or fear of corporate or individual exposure. As one cultural commentator recently opined, the contemporary church is in need of more prophets--those who are willing to stand in the breach and call out the sin of the people. Sure, biblical prophets were sinners themselves, but it did not stop them from proclaiming Truth. Truth is Truth no matter who proclaims it, and I am ready to proclaim some Truth. I've sat on the sidelines too long and coached myself into the malaise of modern political correctness. This far and no further! It is time to act. The stakes are simply too high to remain silent.
Naturally, Truth must be offered in love and grace, so I want to assure all my critics that use of words like "hate" and "rage" above do not foreshadow the manner in which I plan conduct myself, nor are they meant to stir the pot of emotionalism in my readers. Balance, fairness, measuredness, and Christ-likeness are always foremost in my mind, and they will remain so. However, boldness and candor are also key traits I plan to demonstrate with greater frequency, and I hope others will follow. We must fix the machine now before it no longer does what it was created to do.