Those of us who have surrendered to the ministry, do so fully knowing that we have targets on our backs. Nobody has to convince us that the enemy is real and an imminent threat to our lives, families, and ministries. Yet ministers have common blind spots which can become dangerously subtle traps.
I recently blogged about the financial trap and isolation trap, which led me to consider other satanic traps which have taken many ministers down. Today we will see how Jesus prepared His disciples for a world of hurt both from the devil, as well as hateful humans. I see at least four ways pastors and leaders can avoid the anger trap.
1. Bless Those Who Curse You
Although some pastors have notoriously short fuses, many others struggle in silence behind their ministerial grins. Jesus taught them how to take control of an escalating situation and turn it around.
“Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
The more vocal our critics become, the more vocal we should become in prayer. I realize that this concept is both counterintuitive and countercultural, but it really works! Have you tried adding your enemies to your prayer list?
“If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that” (Luke 6:33).
“Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
2. Disarm Those Who Threaten You
When Jesus taught His disciples to turn the other cheek (Luke 6:29a), it contextually made more sense to them than us. Nobody passively absorbs violence in the 21st century, nor should they. In first century Israel, an insulting back-handed slap was meant to insult, not injure.
Jesus was teaching them and us a form of self-defense that puts us in charge of an angry altercation. By diffusing their enemy and even potentially earning his respect, a leader keeps the situation from escalating.
Pastor, are you taking charge of conflicts in your church or getting baited into them? Why not take the lead and set the ground rules for conflict resolution?
“A kind answer soothes angry feelings, burt harsh words stir them up” (Proverbs 15:1).
3. Give To Those Who Use You
Unfortunately, some ministers are victims of neglect in their churches. Another year goes by without a raise or positive feedback, which can easily lead to anger and resentment. It really does make it hard to do the best you can when your church is not doing the best that they can.
Jesus again teaches us to be proactive by giving them more than they bargained for. I challenge you to turn your anger into enthusiasm by serving the Lord with gladness. Not only will God notice and bless your efforts, I believe that eventually your church will too.
“And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back” (Luke 6:29b-30).
David worked enthusiastically for his wacko boss King Saul, who was jealous of his success. In response to another homicidal rant, David passed on an opportunity to retaliate, and instead showed his loyalty.
“Then Saul wept aloud and said to David, ‘You are more righteous than I, for you have done what is good to me though I have done what is evil to you…may the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today’ ” (1 Samuel 24:17).
4. Forgive Those Who Hurt You
I believe that unforgiveness is one of the most dangerous satanic traps because it is so subtle. Additionally, anger grows and spreads like the disease that it is. Actively avoid unforgiveness or it will seize your soul and ambush your life and ministry.
“In your anger, do not sin…and do not give the devil a foothold…Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:26-27, 32).
Next Thursday I will write about another trap that is common to pastors and ministry leaders – the lust trap. With your input, I would like to expose even more traps that we face so that we can live and serve in victory.
What other traps should we keep an eye out for?