Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"And Some Preach Out of Rivalry..."

I was listening to Philippians today and I ran across Philippians 1:15-17 which reads:

"Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment."

Talk about politically incorrect. In Christian circles, it's just wrong to flat out call someone an agitator. You're supposed to believe the best, right? What gave Paul the right to say, "This person is an agitator, that one is a hater. This one has good intentions, but him over there? Nah."

There are a few keys in the above verses:

1) The latter (the ones preaching from good will) preach out of love. When another brother seems to be down, they find out why the person is down (i.e. "Paul is not there because he did something wrong. He's actually there because of Christ. Let's be more bold in our approach too!")

2) The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry. They saw Paul's downtime in prison as an opportunity to get "one up" on him and become the next well known preacher. They also knew what that could do to Paul (i.e. "Paul's gonna hear about us doing it big while he's in prison and he's gonna get frustrated that he's not free".)

I've been on both sides. I wish I couldn't relate to #2 as well as I do, but sometimes these attacks do come. When I'm about to do something that I think will be highly effective, sometimes those thoughts come. They generally start out like this: "Man, when I do this or when this comes out?? Whew! People are gonna trip!" Then it turns to: "So and so already doesn't like me too much. So and so's might be a little upset when this happens. Oh well. Let them hate." Then, if unchecked, it turns into that person coming up in your thoughts on the day of your "big event" or during your creative process. (Sorry, this is just real. And if you have ever tried creating something in a market that you share with others, you've more than likely felt the same way too.)

Here's a little curve ball though. Most people who are in the public eye (or seek to be) are very emotionally fragile. We feel like someone is always trying to outdo us, make themselves look better than us, etc. When we feel like that in a situation, how do we figure out if we're being paranoid or if the other people are trying to be a pain?

Honestly, most of the time it's us! This is what I do: I examine my heart and say, "Why is this getting on my nerves? If they're preaching the gospel, why am I mad? What's in me that has me so agitated?" After I test myself and come to the conclusion that I should be happy as long as the gospel is being preached, I move on to examine the other party according to the scriptures. In Philippians, you'll see this common thread of selfishness in those who don't have the right motives for ministry. What does this person or ministry look like on a practical level?

1) They strive to do something big and can't wait to put their name on it (either exclusively or their name is at the forefront).
2) They generally try to set themselves in positions of influence, tell you that they are there and make you feel like all hope is lost if you get on their bad side.
3) You can tell by the way they treat you and talk to you that their concern is not the interests of the Lord. They're just interested in doing something big.
4) Who comes out on top in the end? Is their name shining bright, is there a struggle to see the light of Christ due to self promotion, or does God get all of the glory? (Not glory in word only but also in deed. Remember, if we say "God gets all the glory" but we treat people like trash then God is NOT glorified.)

A quick way to identify these people is seeing how they react to real unity. As a rule of thumb, people who are only concerned with their own things will never make time to connect with you on a one-to-one basis. Why? Because they're too busy trying to be "great". You never see them unless you happen to be working with them on the same project (which is not real unity). If they are in a public setting, they carry around a "network swag" instead of being truly personable. These are huge red flags.

The bottom line is that we should be okay with Jesus and the kingdom being preached...even if we feel the vessel is somewhat tainted with wrong motives. But we should also check our motives daily AND we should have a good feel for those who labor among us. Hope this helps someone!

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