The False Choice Between Conscience and Loyalty

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, what they should do in a situation where they have been asked to teach a class at a congregation they attend, when they know the things they want to share would be at odds with those who are asking them to teach the class. It generallly spills out something like, “Should I go ahead and use it to open people’s eyes to the truth even though it could cause great conflict, or should I tell the leaders up front what I’ll be sharing and risk losing the opportunity?” Since I’ve found myself copying and pasting the same answer to various people, I thought it might be time to post it here…

Here’s one I got recently:

I was in the midst of a crisis in my home church when I was surfing (the Net), trying to make sense out of the latest situation. I ‘stumbled’ onto Your web site and, as I began to read, all of the experiences of the past 30 years began to file past my mind. I began to realize why I Just haven’t been able to ‘make it’ in the church as it now stands. Absolutely all the things that I was reading in the Word but couldn’t get anyone else to buy into because of tradition were verified in your writings and completely resonated in my spirit as being true…

The Spirit has not told us to leave where we are. In fact, I’m supposed to teach as adult class starting in September that talks about the church being God’s world missions strategy center. The tension I’m facing right now is: Do I start this and just move through the material and let them figure out bit by bit that my paradigm has changed? Or do I become very transparent and tell all at the risk of losing my class? How do I function in the traditional setting when what I’m learning is slowly being replaced by New Testament truth?

Here’s how I responded: As to your question, I’m not sure there is a right answer here that will fit all situations. Perhaps you might want to look a little broader.

There are really two conflicting realities here. One is the trust that has been bestowed upon you to teach the class by the powers that be in that system. Can you teach what is on your heart without betraying that trust? If not, I would consider giving it up. Of course you don’t have to teach what you’re seeing in away that undermines the group. You can present your thoughts more as questions and struggles of thought rather than completed conclusions that undermine the place God you’re in.

But that brings up the second conflicting reality. Will you betray your conscience in the effort not to betray their trust? Our religious systems set up this horrible situation where loyalty to God is put over against our loyalty to human leadership. Certainly God must come first, and I don’t ever recommend people violating their conscience. At the same time, I don’t think it wisdom or graceful to abuse someone else’s venue by teaching something other than they would freely let you teach.

Perhaps a conversation is in order with the powers that be. Tell them about your concerns, some of what you’re struggling with and how it might impact the class and let them decide whether you should do it or not. Then you will have to betray neither their trust nor your conscience. But in the end, it may mean great conflict and loss of an opportunity. But that is not yours to control is it? That’s in his hands and he will continue to lead and guide you and give you every opportunity he wants you to have to share his life with others…

That is how I see these things in general. I know it is not a simple yes or no! Of course, I realize Father may have specific leading for you that trumps everything I’ve said. I really can’t speak to that since I have no real insight on this specific situation. I’m confident if you just get in a quiet place and ask Jesus what he wants you to do, that clarity will come to your heart. I would trust that for more than the insight of a stranger who has no firsthand knowledge of the situation you are in…

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2 Comments
  1. HarryTickâ„¢ September 13, 2006 at 10:11 am

    Wayne,

    “Should I play dead or not?” If the reality a person believes conflicts with what they’re being taught (or being asked to teach), my experience is that that conflict will not be appeased, no matter how much one tries (even by substituting the message). “You cannot have two masters.” as Jesus said. “You will love one and hate the other. You will cling to one and despise the other.”

    My response to the question, as fallacious an argument as it may be, is, “Are you dead?”

  2. HarryTickâ„¢ September 13, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    Wayne,

    “Should I play dead or not?” If the reality a person believes conflicts with what they’re being taught (or being asked to teach), my experience is that that conflict will not be appeased, no matter how much one tries (even by substituting the message). “You cannot have two masters.” as Jesus said. “You will love one and hate the other. You will cling to one and despise the other.”

    My response to the question, as fallacious an argument as it may be, is, “Are you dead?”

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