Tag Archives: accountability

Despicable Me and the Vitriolaters


I love the Despicable Me movies.  The minions crack me up.  And Gru–you have to love a guy who works so hard to be so bad only to find out that he can love his adopted daughters with a heart-melting kind of love.

But Gru is the focus of the “despicableness” of the Despicable Me movies.  In fact, I would go so far as to say the recent Minions movie (without Gru for 99.9 percent of the screen time) just didn’t quite reach the same level of, well, despicableness.

As opposed to, say, me: because while Gru tries so hard to be bad without being able to pull it off, I try so hard to be good, but I cannot even get close.

That brings me to this:

I have been in and out of pastoral ministry for a couple of decades.  I have had my share of high intensity disagreements with folks who thought ministry should be done differently or who disagreed with me about something I had done…or hadn’t done…or had done but hadn’t done to their satisfaction, etc.  Once or twice the accusations rose to the level of acrimony.  But, in most every case, on the other side of the acrimony, there was usually a level of reengagement and forgiveness and reconciliation.

But I have reached a new level in my pastoral career–it turns out that I am now–wait for it–“despicable.”  It was the actual word used in an actual email from an actual person to describe the actual me.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s some sample (unedited) verbiage:

Yea, thats right, your gutless! I think youre so gutless, in fact, that you wont even have the nerve to read this through without cutting me off again. Thats how much of a gutless coward I think you really are.

And this,

Its Pastors like you who expect high pay to fulfill positions of sacrifice and who make me want to puke. Youre ability to bring the worst out in people is real and that should tell you that youre not fit to be called Pastor.

And this,

You’re a despicable Pastor.

That’s right, Despicable Me.

Now, I have written elsewhere about recognition of not just my tendency toward, but my regular wallowing in, my own sin.  My spirit echoes the Apostle Paul’s angst:  “For, I have the desire to do what is good,” Paul says, “but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this bondage to sin and death?” (Romans 7:19 & 24).

I must find my rescue in exactly the same place that Paul found his rescue, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25).  It is there (and only there), accessing the full resources of the Trinity, that I begin to wade my way through and out of the muck and spray of sin that I exude on a regular basis.

So there is some truth in the “despicable” label.  But not the kind of truth spewed by the above “Vitriolater” (yes, I made up a word to describe those who spew vitriol).  So the Vitriolaters are often right…just not in the ways they think they are.

Many others, much wiser than I (if you’d humor me by accepting the premise that I might be, in some small way, “wise”–and not in the “wise guy” way of being wise), have attempted to ferret out why intensity of faith can result in the venomous spew of the Vitriolaters.

Marshall Shelley wrote Well Intentioned Dragons (in 1985) about people who are extraordinarily critical but who, at their core, genuinely seem to want the best for the Kingdom and its people.  But Vitriolaters are not “well-intentioned.”  They aim to destroy.

The trouble with the Vitriolators?  They think they’re right…about everything…all the time.  And they may sometimes be right in seeing the sin; but they are always oh so wrong in their thinking that they have been deputized as “Assistant Holy Spirits” to so flagrantly berate us sinners.

Is there need for genuine accountability in the Body of Christ?  Absolutely.  But it is “wounds from a friend that can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6), not improvised explosive devices from the Vitriolaters.

Vitriolaters elevate their opinions to orthodoxy.  “Speaking the truth in love” seems to be beyond them.  Hungry to hear their own voice and hungry to have their voices validated by others, the Vitriolaters develop a streak of viciousness that seems to relish the prospect of proving themselves right at another’s expense.

Vitriolaters, it seems, eventually become idolaters–they worship their own “truth” instead of the One who is Truth.

And–please hear me–this is not a cry for sympathy.  I am not in the hunt for blogosphere shoulders upon which to cry.  I am genuinely puzzled by this phenomenon.  I am genuinely puzzled about how recipients of a Gospel fueled by the sacrificial love of Christ can wind up spawning so much hate.

What do we do about Vitriolaters?  Forgive them?  Pray for them?  Turn the other cheek?  Go the extra mile?  Give them our cloak too?  Yes, all of those things.  But beyond those things, as stewards of Christ’s Church, we must also do what the Bible also says about tending to the health of His Church, “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time.  After that, have nothing to do with them” (Titus 3:10).

Carefully, in the company of seasoned, spiritually deep church leaders, we must warn them and warn them again and then we must let them go.  Just as Gru would do anything to protect his girls, we must do everything we can to protect the integrity of Jesus’ first love: His Church.

Yep…I am despicable.  Now, if I only had some minions.

© 2015, All rights reserved.  Scriptures from the New International Version (Zondervan).

Backup Camera!

Backup Camera! 

You have to say it like Lucy Wilde says “Lipstick Taser!” in Despicable Me 2 …all falsetto…with genuine glee packed into it:  “Backup Camera!”  Wait…you haven’t seen Despicable Me 2?  That’s just, well, despicable.  Ask your kids…they’ll tell you. 

I mentioned in a previous blog that I recently leased a car.  This car has a Backup Camera.  It’s very exciting to be able to see areas that were previously blind spots when backing up.  There, in a dash-mounted panoramic display: everything that is behind the car, below the back end of the car, and to the immediate left and right rear…previously hidden spots in my “backup life” are now revealed.  They are revealed in a way that helps me avoid danger and revealed in a way that helps make new choices and head in new directions (or just slam on the brakes if need be).  Backup Camera! 

Backing up the car is not the only place I have blind spots.  I have blind spots in my relational and spiritual spheres as well.  There are things about me and the way I interact with others that I cannot see or, that I (ummm…) choose not to see: blind spots. 

You want to know what they are, don’t you?  Alright…here are a few…I’m not warm and fuzzy so sometimes I don’t see those moments when a simply dispensed hug will do.  I hate legalism (the imposition of human rules about what constitutes anything Christian) so sometimes I miss the hurt in the legalists’ eyes–the hurt that fuels the rampage.  I have blind spots associated with my wife and my kids and my grandkids so I sometimes don’t see their humanity in the midst of my perception of their wonderfulness (because they are, indeed, wonderful…I have pictures). 

And…well, I think that’s enough.  I have blind spots.  But we all have blind spots, don’t we.  The first blind spot might even be a blind spot about our blind spots.  Psychologists would call this a “deficiency in self-awareness.”  The Bible would call it “thinking more highly (read blindly) of ourselves than we ought” when instead we need “sober judgment” (Romans 12:3). 

Jesus had a famous encounter with someone and his blind spot.  You remember the story.  The rich man (the “ruler”) who ran to Jesus (Mark 10) desperate to know what he needed to do to “inherit eternal life.”  Jesus cites representative commandments to impress the breadth of commitment required for the Kingdom.  And, perhaps with a tentative hope, the man thinks that maybe, just maybe, he’s in; you can hear the breathlessness, “All these I have kept…” 

But the rich ruler had a blind spot–it was his wealth.  He had (apparently) impressive religious credentials.  So impressive were his external, religious performance credentials that Jesus didn’t even challenge them.  Jesus sees the man’s compelling sincerity and (here’s an “aha” moment), because Jesus loves this earnest man, He shines a revelatory light on the ruler’s blind spot: his stash of cash.  The ruler was a man of great wealth. 

So here’s a thing:  Jesus is not trying to trample the man’s self-esteem or be “judgmental” in the silly “don’t tell the emperor he has no clothes on” kind of way that our culture uses that word.  Jesus points the man to his blind spot because Jesus cares most deeply for this man and it is Jesus’ very care that moves Him to help this man see his need for more than some coins in a bag. 

At the moment of the blind spot revelation, the man now had a choice–act on the newly seen truth about his blind spot or turn away.  Sadly for him and for Jesus (and perplexing for the disciples who observed), the man turns away.  Though he was now aware of his blind spot, the man was stuck in a place that prevented him from fully embracing the way of the One who is The Way.  The ruler’s blind spot disabled his ability to see that Jesus had so much more to give. 

We all have blind spots; we all have things about ourselves that we will miss unless someone who loves us points to them and says, ever so gently, that we’re missing something.  We all need the Backup Camera to help us avoid those danger zones we’d otherwise just plain miss.  We’re all in need of faithful and believing friends to help us see those blind spots. 

Don’t get me wrong…this is not the random, “Let me tell you how badly you stink,” that passes for “accountability” in some circles.  This is the genuine caring of those most invested in us and our Christian life that carefully points out the blind spot and takes our hand to help us find the way out. 

Say it with me, just like Lucy Wilde, “Backup Camera!” 

Get one installed today.

© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan.


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