There are abusive words and words that are abused. It is the latter that is the most dangerous. I see this often in both the political and economic arenas. I have seen it more than I care to admit within the Church.
Since I do not know the hearts of those who have abused the words, bringing people into bondage, I will assume they did it with a sincere heart. I do not want to get into judging people. I will simply show some of the abuses that are perpetrated on God's people in the name of "following the Lord."
In the early '70s, a doctrine arose that became a movement known as the "Shepherding Movement." It was sometimes referred to as "Discipleship."
In the most egregious examples of the error, people were not allowed to marry, buy a car, get a job, or other important matters of life without first consulting with an "elder." Permission had to be granted for the person to move forward with their desire.
Those of you reading this who never experienced this or heard of it are probably aghast that such a thing was even possible--but, it's true. There were many factors that contributed to this error of that time, and there are still some leftovers from the movement which affect many today in various churches. It is to these that I write.
Those who have been hurt by abusive teachings or programs are mainly people whose primary goal in this life is to be found pleasing to their Lord. In that place they surrender themselves to those whom they perceive to be in authority. They do this with what they think is a strong scriptural support.
But, it was NEVER God's intention for any of us to be ruled by anyone other than Him.
When God created Adam and Eve, He did not place a king or any human authority over either of them. God alone was their ruler until they surrendered to the serpent. Eve surrendered her freedom to the serpent, and Adam surrendered his freedom to Eve. Both have been in bondage ever since, and will continue so until that bondage is exchanged for the freedom that is in Christ. (Gal. 5:1)
One area of misunderstanding that led to bondage and abuse in modern times is the idea of submission. Children are taught to submit to their parents; wives are told to submit to their husbands; all are told to submit to the church leadership.
We are told that "to submit" means "to obey." This is patently FALSE, but it is a great tool to bring others into bondage to "my way."
Here is a clear example of the difference between submission and obedience.
Peter and John were told by the Sanhedrin to not speak any more or teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18).
The council of elders of the Jews were the leaders of the people. According to the teaching we have been given, Peter and John should have obeyed this council. Instead, they submitted to the council of elders and chose to disobey them.
They submitted to the authority of the elders, saying "You judge" (v. 19); but they would not obey the directive to keep silent.
When I was being groomed to become a leader in the discipleship movement, I was discussing the concepts of authority with an associate pastor who had been brought in specifically for the purpose of teaching us how to set up a shepherding program. I said, "You only have as much authority as I give you." He bristled under the power of that truth.
Think about it.
You alone determine how much of your life you can give away to anyone at any time.
This is the theme of Victor Frankl's seminal work, "Man's Search for Meaning," which is the outcome of his time in a Nazi concentration camp.
Some will argue that I have bought into the New Age mentality of being my own god, but I will show believers the biblical authority for such a claim.
One of the verses that was used to show that we "needed" authority over us was taken from the OT: "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6).
On the surface, it appears logical to assume that what was lacking was human authority; and this is what was used to bring many under the teachings of the shepherding movement. However, if one will read the passage in its context, it will be noted that the reference is to choosing how one will worship without following God's desire. it is God Who was to be their king.
This is made plain when the Jews clamored for a king so that they could be like all the peoples around them (1 Sam. 8:5).
When Samuel took their request to the Lord, God said, "They have rejected me from being king over them (v.7). And then He told them of all the bondage they would endure as a result (vv. 10-17).
So the problem was not that there was no human ruler, but that they had quit being led by the Spirit and chose their own devices.
One other place this thought is presented is in Deuteronomy 12:8, when Moses is giving the laws to the people. He said, "It will not be as it is here today, everyone doing that which is right in his own eyes..." That verse is not presented with its full force, which is revealed in verse 9: "...for you have not yet come into the rest and inheritance that God is giving you."
If you didn't jump up and shout reading that, you need to read it again!
Once we come into the rest that God is giving us, we are EXPECTED to do that which is right in our own eyes.
Beloved, we HAVE come into that place of rest in Jesus--Hebrews 4:1-9.
Therefore, you have no need for anyone to exercise authority over you (1 John 2:27).
It is your responsibility to learn what Romans 8:14 means in your own life.
It is your privilege to experience the liberty of Galatians 5:1.
It is your honor to trust that Jesus knew exactly what He was talking about when He said we could trust the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).
Shake off the yoke of bondage and go forth making your mistakes and counting your successes as you learn what it means to walk with Jesus as your guide.