Following God in obedience is a difficult task. Here is a harsh truth that would serve us all well to remember: when you step out in faith and follow what you feel God is asking you to do, you will almost always be misunderstood by the crowd around you. Jesus told us that in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. He said, “Blessed are you when men insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
So, how should we react when we are misunderstood, falsely accused, and abused? Our natural tendency is to slip into the “fight or flight” instinct and protect ourselves. Depending on the circumstances and our personality we may either retaliate with a “holier-than-thou” explanation about how WE are actually obeying God while THEY are apathetic sideliners. Or we may shut down and remove ourselves emotionally from the relationship in order to protect ourselves from the pain. We may become bitter and resentful towards those people. Or, we may even begin to resent God for allowing this persecution when we have sacrificed so much to do what He asked us to do.
So how should we react? We can learn a great lesson from how Moses and Aaron reacted…
1. They fell on their faces. To fall on one’s face, in those days, was to place oneself in a position of humble submission to another. Here Moses and Aaron were the God anointed spiritual and political leaders of the people who were being accused by the “peasantry.” In human standards Moses and Aaron had every right to flex their leadership muscles (which had been given to them by God, remember) and push this rabble back into their places. But they didn’t. Instead, they humbled themselves before the people and acknowledged that God alone was the leader and that they were merely vessels. In a sense, they were acknowledging to their accusers that there may be some truth in the accusation and that they were willing to entertain the idea.
2. They left the battle up to God. Moses and Aaron knew this simple truth: if something is ordained by God, then it is going to happen. If it is not of God, then it won’t. Here is the trap that many leaders fall into. We start off by following along with God’s direction. In the beginning we see that it is God at work and that we are just vessels. Eventually, though, we can start to take the credit for the things that God is doing, as if it was our cleverness and strategizing that made this thing work. Then, we begin to attach our identity to the successfulness of the ministry that we are leading and become dependent upon its success to feel good about ourselves. At that point, if our leadership is challenged, or we are misunderstood, or accused of wrong-doing, we feel personally attacked and our own sense of self-worth and identity is at stake. With those lenses on it becomes very easy to start fighting back against our assailants.
Moses and Aaron believed that God had appointed them to be the leaders. If this accusation was true, and God was now ready to remove them from leadership, then there was nothing they could do about it. If this accusation was false, then God would make it clear to everyone who He wanted to be the leaders and who he didn’t.
3. If we leave it up to Him to fight the battles, then He will make truth clear in the end. In the end of this story the rabble-rousers were swallowed up by the Earth. That is not generally how God does it any more when we are falsely accused. However, if we step out of the way and let our accusers run their course, they will eventually be swallowed up by their own selfish and sinful motives and desires and be exposed for who they really are.
So, the next time you are misunderstood or falsely accused, take a deep breath and …
1. ask yourself, “Is there any truth in what these accusers are saying?” If yes, then thank them for exposing a blind spot in your life and repent of it.
2. If no, then turn the other cheek to them and allow God to defend you. You just stick to the agenda that God has given you and don’t let nay-sayers and rabble-rousers set your agenda for you.
3. Remember that this is God’s agenda and not yours. If at anytime God wants to give you new marching orders, then so be it. You are just along for the ride! All glory belongs to Him anyway.