Religious ends being used to justify immoral means

Thu, 11/08/2022 - 11:49 -- James Oakley

In Acts 23:12-22, Paul is imprisoned in Jerusalem, when a group of over 40 young men take an oath not to eat until they have killed him. They plan to request him to be taken for an audience at the Sanhedrin, and to ambush it en route. Paul's nephew hears of the plot, tips off the military commander, and Paul is extricated at night to Caesarea to foil their plot.

I suspect most or all of those young men returned to their normal diet, and none of them kept their oath until they starved to death.

In the Western world, over the past 5 or so years, there have been many tragic stories that have become public of narcissistic church leaders bullying and domineering their flocks as a way to build a personal empire. Sadly, I'm sure there will be many other similar stories that have remained private, and where this still goes on. We justify controlling and manipulative means because the greater-end of advancing the gospel is being pursued. This does not work, and we need to do Jesus’ work in Jesus’ ways (to quote Mark Stirling, director of the Chalmers Institute, speaking to a group of ministers I was in).

One of the motifs in Acts 20-28 is demonstrating the integrity of the apostle Paul, including his moral integrity. The things he was accused of were being done by his accusers, but not by Paul himself.

But how is it that church leaders think that immoral behaviour becomes justified just because it pursues a religious end?

David Gooding comments on that story in Acts 23:

“The army commander was soon to discover, if he did not know it before, that religion does not always feel itself obliged to follow strict morality in the way that ordinary morals are supposed to do. When it wishes do defend itself or destroy an enemy, it can persuade itself that the defence of truth justifies dispensing with morality altogether.” (David Gooding, True to the Faith, page 384 {1990 edition})

Quite so, so we all need to beware how easily we slip into that attitude.

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Idiotic System's picture
Submitted by Idiotic System on

Society seems to have decided what church should look like, and Christians seem to be hard at work on their hamster wheels trying to meet the unrealistic standards decided upon by society. I suspect this happens because the average hamster Christian doesn't know what scripture says, but does know what society expects. We forget however that God has a plan. To explain his plan he gave the parable of the wheat and the tares. The narcissistic church leaders are left to mature into tares amongst the damaged wheat stalks so that when the full number of days is completed for their sin, the tares will be collected and burnt. In less words, I believe God is allowing all the rot of misunderstood and misappropriated Christianity to come to the surface in these days so that what remains after this lot have been scooped out, is the pure and radiant bride who will make that final call to believe. God is watching. 

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