The commander in chief of David’s army, Amasa’s body lies in the road. Joab has assassinated him. One of Joab’s men then stands by the body and calls out:
“Whoever favours Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab.”
Loyalty to David has now been explicitly linked to loyalty to Joab. The both are presented as going hand in hand, even though David had demoted Joab from commander in chief, even though he hadn’t even sent Joab out as the leader (when Amasa failed to return, David overlooked Joab in favour of Abishai).
This happens in the Christian life when:
- Church leaders confuse loyalty to Christ with demanding loyalty to their church, denomination, ministry or them personally.
- We create a culture of dependency or co-dependency when believers look to other believers to meet their needs.
The first danger seems extremely obvious doesn’t it. And yet, we hear about churches where any questioning of what the pastor says is forbidden or frowned upon. It’s important that leaders are permitted to lead in the church but this should never be autocratic, we lead by teaching God’s Word and by setting a godly example not by imposing our will.
The second is subtler because it often arises out of good intentions. A Christian sees another Christian in need and so they start to care for them. That might include practical help, it may include giving pastoral support, being alongside them to pray with them. However, what happens over time is that the person receiving help becomes dependent on the other Christian. They feel indebted and so when the other believer asks them to help serve, they can’t say “no” because they owe something. They turn to the other Christian when they are struggling to make a decision, not just for advice but for approval.
This is often co-dependency because the one helping and advising begins to feel wanted and loved because other Christians depend upon them. They find their security in being needed.
Now, we know that when the priest claims to be able to intercede for the congregant at confession or when the prosperity pastor offers to pray for those who tithe so they will be blessed that they are wrong. Yet, in the situation I’ve just described, we are equally guilty of coming between someone and God. We make ourselves into mediators.
God will have no rivals. We are living dangerously.
Here are a couple of practical suggestions to help avoid this:
- It is important to have genuinely plural eldership so that leaders are help accountable to one another.
- Similarly, it is unhealthy for a Christian to become dependent upon one other Christian. Therefore 1-1 discipleship in my opinion is best kept time limited. Encourage people to participate in small groups where there is mutual encouragement and support. Encourage them to think about what they give to the group as well as what they receive.
- Where practical help is needed, make sure that it happens through the church. The recipient should see this as part of family life, of giving and receiving, not as a charity hand out. Where people wish to give to a particular need, then make sure it is genuinely anonymous so that a financial gift is not traced back to someone.
There are two aspects to this challenge. We should beware the temptation for us to become dependent upon others. We should also beware the temptation to let others become dependent on us.
 2 Samuel 20:11