written by Reginald Smith, Director of Diversity CRCNA
Let’s admit that having conversations with people who disagree with you is really difficult and frustrating. Former Illinois congressman Adam Kinzinger received an open letter of rebuke from eleven family members because of his disagreements with the former president. They wrote, “What a disappointment you are to us and to God. You have embarrassed the Kinzinger name!” (Joshua Coleman, What Estranged Families Can Teach Us About the Political Divide, May 14, 2021) During the pandemic, many church leaders (especially pastors) felt the pressure and pull between members on both sides of freedom and safety. Some pastors quit the ministry because they had never encountered such conflict and strife at this high level.
Leaders experience chaos and revolt during times of change and uncertainty. With a worn out prophet named Samuel and the awful succession of leaders who were Samuel’s sons, Israel demanded a king (who looked like the answer to their problems). They could not wait for God’s answer found in a ruddy red-haired shepherd named David. The Lord didn’t fight their fears because this served as a visible lesson about giving in to the anxious moment and taking the blows by followers desperate for easy and simple fixes.
Doing hard things isn’t a matter of skill or bravado, but a commitment to keep asking tough questions, resisting the temptation of giving easy answers, and staying connected to the very people who resist one’s leadership. Jesus resisted the easy things that would have launched a miracle tour (stones into bread), built a solid following (throwing himself from the temple), and found a different leader (refusing to worship the devil). Jesus became a leader by leading himself in the midst of pressure and pride. He did the hard things as the first thing in showing a bigger vision of God’s work in the world.
Asking tough questions doesn’t win points or favors, but keep doing it. Resisting easy answers is hard because people want certainty. Stay the course. Keep the faith that “he who has begun a good work in you promises to complete it in you and them”. Keep loving them even when their fears appear to get the best of them, let Jesus lead you anyway.