How to deal with corrupted leaders

How should we deal with corrupted leaders, both in secular and church context? If we obey in submission at the expense of other biblical values (eg. righteousness), won’t this cause confusion to our belief system?

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Hi, Joyce, good to hear from you.
Psalm 119:9-12 says,
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees.”

It is a difficult situation. If possible, especially if it is in church, try talking directly to the person, hopefully it is all a misunderstanding. Or, perhaps you may wish to talk first with someone else that is also in a leadership position. Then, either that person can discuss the issue with the alleged leader, or both of you may approach the person. Use the Scripture as the means to remind the person as it said in 2 Timothy 3: 16. In a secular environment, it is even harder. If there is a mutually agreeable moral standard, or legal basis, you may use that to be a reminder for that person.

Either way, point out your concern with gentle, loving language since the hope is to change the person’s behavior. Ravi Zacharias encouraged us to “be a peace builder, a bridge builder, not a destroyer. Do it through friendships and relationships, and through authentic character.”
On the other hand, if it is something that you don’t think that can be changed or improved. Hold to your Biblical value and your belief system. Ravi suggested, “True freedom is not the liberty to do whatever we want. It is the strength to do what we should.” Hold fast to the truth and your faith.

However, before any of these, pray, pray and pray. Pray that the Lord will correct the leaders Himself. Pray that the Lord will soften the heart of the leader to be willing to listen to reason. Pray for yourself for strength, wisdom and the right words. Pray for other alternative doors to be opened for you. Pray for your continued faith. May the Lord be with you always and strengthen you. I apologize for mumbling on without actually knowing too much detail. Please correct me if I am off the track.

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@joyce.zhunyu, you ask two distinct questions:

  1. How should we deal with corrupted leaders, both in secular and church context?
  2. If we obey in submission at the expense of the other biblical values (eg. righteousness), won’t this cause confusion to our belief system?

I will offer an answer to the second question first, which will provide the groundwork for an answer to the first question.

The answer to the second question is yes, although obeying commands that contradict God’s commands possibly shows an already confused belief system. Peter and the apostles responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, ESV; cf. Acts 4:19-20) when the authorities told them to stop evangelizing. They were able to stand their ground because they firmly believed both what they preached and that they were morally obligated to preach it. Peter later wrote, “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15-16, ESV). Honoring Christ in our hearts before the decisive moment comes enables us to obey God rather than men at that moment.

We must carefully consider what we consider to be Biblical values, however, and whether submitting to corrupt authorities in certain cases truly creates conflicts of interest with those values. We also need carefully to consider whether the authorities in question are truly corrupt. The Bible has many examples of Godly people choosing to obey God rather than men for legitimate reasons that are worth studying. Joseph’s refusal to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife is one example (Genesis 39:6–23). Another is Daniel and his friends refusing to eat meat sacrificed to idols (Daniel 1:8–16), and refusing to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image (Daniel 3). The prophets all risked their lives to speak God’s word. Jeremiah vividly describes his confrontations with pagan kings and false prophets. Note that all the people just referenced also submitted to the authorities who forced this choice upon them. I leave it to you to study these cases for yourself.

I have a special example for you of how godly people dealt with corrupt religious leaders, which arguably is a much more grievous problem than corrupt secular government. The first two chapters of 1 Samuel tell the story of Hannah, the eventual mother of Samuel. Her husband, Elkanah, faithfully brought his family to worship at the Tabernacle in Shiloh each year. Eli was the high priest. His sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests. Eli was a gentle soul, and a weak father. His sons bullied those who sacrificed at Shiloh and slept with the women who served at the Tabernacle. Word got around. Eli rebuked his sons for providing fodder for the rumors but did not do much to clean house. Eli was so jaded that he thought that Hannah was drunk when he saw her lips move in prayer at the Tabernacle. Elkanah surely knew the rumors and experienced the bullying. He and his family remained faithful to God, however. They still sacrificed at the Tabernacle and feasted on what Eli’s sons left to them. Their hearts were set on honoring the God of Israel.

Hannah was childless. This deeply hurt. One day she wept and prayed at the Tabernacle. (This was the prayer that Eli thought a sign of drunkenness.) She promised God that she would commit her first son to his service if he gave one to her. God blessed her with one, and she kept her vow. She brought Samuel to the Tabernacle as soon as she weaned him—and left him in Eli’s care! She surely did this knowing the sons’ corruption. She honored her word to the Lord because she knew that he, not Eli, was Samuel’s true guardian. What mother would do that nowadays? I think that Hannah teaches us a valuable lesson.

I believe that it is easy to mistake opinions and preferences for Biblical values. We need to be very careful how we choose our battles. We need to stay in God’s Word and pray to him without ceasing, like Hannah. The examples that I cited above, especially Elkanah and Hannah, demonstrate that corruption in leaders does not negate their authority. Godly people generally should obey those corrupt authorities even at extreme inconvenience. The only exception is when those authorities command us to do things that directly contradict God’s commands. I will not comment on present political and religious strife except to say that I think that many Christians are fighting the wrong battles against governmental and church authorities and are treating each other with very ungodly attitudes. I leave it to you to decide which battles those are and how they should or should not be fought.

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Thanks for the enlightenment! Thanks for reminding me to keep check of my heart condition. I think it’s important to first guard my heart from corruption, and not breed a revenge in the name of self righteousness.

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Thanks @blbossard. The examples that you quoted are most useful case studies.

May my actions glorify God. It becomes apparent to me that being obedient even to perfect leaders is what we should learn. Because if we are in the position of leadership, we won’t be perfect in the first place. Leaders or not, one’s repentance could only be encouraged with a gentle and loving correction. Strong reproach and objection would only increase tension and widen communication gap.

Thanks again for the insights.

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Thank you for sharing this. I had never considered this perspective before.

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@joyce.zhunyu this very insightful. Your insight reminds me of something that I forgot to put in my original post. I believe that we, the “victims” of corrupt leaders, are corrupt ourselves! We have all strayed (Isaiah 53:6). David, the model of Godliness against whom all of the Israelite kings are compared, behaved very corruptly by committing adultery with the wife of one of his most loyal generals and then murdering him by proxy so as to hide his corruption. We need humbly to confess our own corruption; then we can gain wisdom for how to submit to corrupt governing authorities with brave love.

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