As a leader in the local church, I have to confess that I want both respect and love, but if I were to choose it would have to be respect. This goes for parenting, too. My kids cannot always be my best friends when they need me to lean into them about cleaning their rooms. As a pastor, people may want a friendship with me, but their need is for a leader who they can respect as well as love. They will not always agree with me. They will not always be happy with me. But, given those facts, they will need respect me enough in order to follow me. I believe that real love and happiness comes from the honest give-and-take that comes from the messy dealings with people.
Matthew 18 is quoted often as a "process" for confrontation, yet it is more than that and not necessarily just about one person who is right confronting another who is wrong. Who is the real judge in this process? Matthew 18 is two imperfect people forced to be messy with each other in the presence of Jesus, giving Jesus the opportunity to transform and mature both of them. One person is initiating the process. Two parties are involved, but Jesus is in the room. So, when people come forward to complain to me, they might be missing something in that they might be changed by the process if we do it right. After all, Jesus promises to be there when we have these kinds of talks.
The breakdown often is that church people feel entitled to be happy and when I or any other leader disappoints them. Our people think somehow it is always has to be a "right and wrong" issue rather than an opportunity for their transformation as much as it is for mine. Every teacher realizes that you cannot preach what you do not live and so preparing a sermon on patience will bring opportunity to live it out. Ouch. However, we do our church people a disservice without explaining this log-out-of-your-own-eye experience that is part of following Christ maturely.
"Johnny, don’t run out into the street or you’ll get hit by a bus!" screams a frantic mom at her son as he runs toward the street. To this five-year-old he was scolded severely and begins to tear up and wonder whether or not his mom still loves him. Yet, later he realizes that mom is simply wanting him to not get hit by a bus. So, I want respect and love. However, sometimes I have to be sure to remind people to respect my leadership before they can love me the right way. Sometimes I have to respect an individual’s needs before I think of their happiness. They might need the hard words. Later, they can love me.
My dad did something one day to me that made me mad for months. When I was about twelve, my dad did the usual and made the point to me that I could not go out and ride my bike until I cleaned my bedroom. I proceeded to stuff all the toys, clothes and clutter into closets, drawers and under the bed. I amazingly finished my room cleaning in less than five minutes. I thought I had duped my dad. But, dad being a former military man, had on a sharp eye.
Suddenly what appeared as a mad fit of rage erupted. My dad pulled my mattress off the bed into the center of the room. He emptied the entire contents of the closet into a sheet, depositing it on mattress. Every dresser drawer was poured out onto the floor. Within a minute my entire bedroom was now a pile of clutter four feet high. My dad calmly looked at me and said, "Rich, now clean your room."
Later, even today, I deeply love my step dad and wholly respect him. At that moment of my room disaster hugs were not going to happen. However, they came later. He loved me. But, he needed me to respect him. And, because of the three-hour room cleaning that was painful not just for me but for my dad, I do. But, I also love him for it.