"Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don't lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example."1
A Daily Encounter reader requests: "Could you do a lesson on spiritual abuse in the church, please? Something about pastors who, rather than shepherding their flock, rebuke people into submission? And, like the Pharisees, know the letter of the law but not the spirit."
Unfortunately, some legalistic leaders who use false guilt to control others do exist. When the early church slipped back into legalism, Paul asked them, "Who has bewitched [bedeviled] you?"2
People who have a need to control others, whether they are in the church or elsewhere, are very insecure and immature. They gain a sense of false security only when they feel that they are in control of those under or around them. While this is an emotional sickness, it affects those whom they control spiritually as well as emotionally, and can be psychologically damaging to them.
Furthermore, when leaders control others, they are playing the role of God and God's Spirit in other peoples' lives.
However, when we (as adults) allow ourselves to be controlled by others instead of yielding to the control or direction of God's Spirit—and depend on others to tell us what we should or shouldn't do—we act like children who need a parent figure for our own security. In so doing, we become a part of the controlling person's sickness! This way we don't have to think for ourselves, or accept responsibility for our decisions, and we can blame someone else for our bad choices. We do this because of our own insecurity and immaturity.
While we can't change others, with God's help we can change ourselves, and not allow others to control us or lord it over us! That is our responsibility.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank You that I can depend on You and on Your Word, the Bible, to show me healthy ways of living, worshipping, and relating to others. Help me to grow in maturity so I will not be a controlling person or allow myself to be controlled or 'lorded over' by others. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus's name, amen."
1. 1 Peter 5:2-3 (NLT).
2. Galatians 3:1 (KJV).