The Visiting Judge
I had a very strange encounter today between worship services. I was walking down a hallway when I happened upon an older lady in our church speaking with a man I have never seen. The lady called me over and told me that this man was challenging her because she was wearing jewelry. She felt like it would be better if I spoke to him.
He was a young man, well groomed and inconspicuous. His tone of voice was flat and never changed. He said his father lived in the neighborhood and that he is a member of a Church of Christ. I believe he said his name was Kevin, but I don’t know if I’m recalling that correctly.
Kevin told me that he is concerned that churches have fallen into sin, that we were not obeying the Law. He had a Bible and quoted 1 Peter 3:3 which says “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.” The lady he had spoken to had been wearing a necklace (though not a gold one). He was also concerned that “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” (1 Corinthians 14:34)
At this point I asked him who he was and how he came here this morning. He told me that he sometimes goes to other churches in order to share his concern with them. I asked him if he has a “special mission of telling other people how to live.” He responded that he had authority to do this. He quoted Titus 2:15 “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.”
The rest of the conversation went like this:
Me: “So you believe you have the authority to walk into churches and judge people who you don’t know.”
Kevin: “I have authority to rebuke with all authority.”
Me: “YOU believe you have that authority.”
Kevin: “I do have it because the Bible says I do.”
Me: “Is that verse written to you personally.”
Me: “Is your name Titus?”
Me: “That book is written to Titus who is serving as an Elder in that church. Titus is dead, but that book helps Elders understand their role in the church. Are you an Elder in this church?”
Kevin: “No, but I’m a member of the church. I’m under authority. I’m under your authority.”
Me: “You’re under my authority? Then I’m telling you that you do not have authority to come into this church and start judging people.”
Kevin: “I have authority to rebuke.”
Me: “No, you don’t. In this church, Jesus Christ is the supreme authority, and he passes that authority to our bishop. I am the Pastor of this church, under the Bishop, and I am one of the Elders. I am in authority here, and I am telling you that your place in this church is to listen and learn. If you want to talk more about your ideas with me sometime, that’s fine. But you will not come in here and judge these people. You do not have that authority here, and you won’t do it again.”
He then said something about “the brethren” and went immediately to the door.
I have met many visitors to our church over the years. Sometimes they don’t understand something that we’re doing, and sometimes they disagree with something we’ve said or done. I have never known someone to come to our church for the sole purpose of judging. As far as I can tell, he was looking for a woman to rebuke for wearing jewelry. He saw this precious lady and attacked.
I would be willing to talk to someone about the place of women in the church, someone with an honest desire to engage in dialog. There are various ways to approach the verses he was concerned with. Unfortunately, Kevin was not that person. Instead, he was someone I needed to protect my church from.
The very next verse in Titus, right after the one Kevin quoted, is “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (Titus 3:1-2) I believe this verse applies to me just as much as anyone else. I want to be gentle, peaceable, and considerate. I pray for Kevin, that he would want to apply these verses as well.
This was all very strange for two other reasons. First, we had a wonderful guest preacher this morning, my sister in Christ Pastor Glenda Sutton from Family Affair Ministries. Glenda’s proclamation of the Good News was evidence that women should not be silent in our church! Second, this was the day after Brennan Manning’s death. Thinking of Brennan and his love affair with God’s grace, I felt so sad for Kevin who seems to know nothing of this grace. Without people like Brennan, my faith would likely be as self-righteous as Kevin’s. Maybe I’ll get a chance to share the Gospel with him in the future. I pray someone will, and that Kevin will come to know the God and Father of Jesus.