Weekly Letter August 14, 2020

Dear Church Family and Friends,

     As I mentioned last week, I’m working on a series of sermons on the Book of Esther that I will begin preaching this Sunday evening.

     In sermon preparation, there is inevitably some material that doesn’t “make the cut.”  It’s either not derived from the text, or it has less importance than the primary themes of the passage, or it doesn’t seem germane to the needs of the congregation.  But sometimes, such material can be interesting and instructive.  In this case, it’s more philosophical than Biblical. 

     In the first chapter of Esther, we are introduced to the ruler of Persia, Ahasuerus, who is also known as Xerxes.  We find that he is a man of contradictions.  He rules over a vast territory containing 127 provinces from present-day India to Ethiopia.  He’s wealthy enough to have a lavish feast (think huge wedding reception!) for 180 days in a row.  He has executive, legislative, and judicial power.  But he doesn’t have enough influence to get his wife to come to him when he sends for her.

The Difference Between Authority and Influence

     I would suggest that there are two different dynamics at work here:  authority and influence.  If a person has authority, it means that they have the power to make decisions, give orders, and enforce obedience.  Generally, but not always, there is some kind of coercive power that one in authority possesses.  Such a person has a title – whether it be husband, father, CEO of a company, teacher, principal, governor, or President of the United States. 

     Influence is the capacity to have an effect on people and events.  One may have no formal authority, yet have great influence.  Consider the teacher whose love for learning is contagious, and whose love for her students inspires some of them to become teachers themselves.  This does not come from authority, but from influence.

What causes people to have influence

     Ahasuerus has much authority, but little influence.  He needs the coercive authority that goes with his title to effect outcomes.  When his wife disobeys him, he makes a law, which he thinks will solve the problem. 

     Two primary character traits that create influence are character and competence.  To create trust, one must be a person of good character.  This is what we see missing from Ahasuerus.  Not only does he sponsor 180 days of feasting, but following this, he sponsors a week-long party for everyone in the city, in which “each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions.”  So, he hosts a week-long frat party, hoping to get into the good graces of the residents of the city. 

     However, people generally desire that their rulers be self-controlled.  This is why the mother of Lemuel writes in Proverbs 31:3-5:

Do not give your strength to women,
    your ways to those who destroy kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
    it is not for kings to drink wine,
    or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
    and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.

     The character of Ahasuerus is not one that inspires trust.  And his competence is questionable as well.  He cannot rule his own household well.  He attempts to overcome this by making a law.  But because his character is compromised, he has no moral authority.  People will not trust him.  The only authority he has is coercive authority.

     A society ruled by leaders who have not earned moral authority through their character and competence cannot last.  This is true for husbands and father, for church leaders, and for civil authorities.  Families do not have enough means at their disposal to coerce their children to obey apart from children trusting their parents.  This is particularly true when children advance into the teen years and become “too big to spank.”  States and nations can never have enough police to compel obedience to unjust authorities.  And the Church, whose only authority is “moral and spiritual,” has no coercive authority to compel obedience. 

So, What’s the Point of All of This?

     The point of all of this is that if you seek to influence people, you must seek to grow in character, in wisdom, and in godliness.  People may flatter those in authority out of self-preservation.  As Christians, we are called to influence those whom God has put in our proximity with the sweet-smelling aroma of the gospel.  Character is king, and everything else follows from godly character.  Seek to grow in grace.  Pray that the Lord would help you to grow in holiness.  Love the people that God has placed you among deeply, and the Lord will bless your efforts.

ARTICLES OF NOTE

     On August 4, PCA Pastor Jean Jacob Paul was martyred in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.  Read here of his courageous and fruitful ministry, and his courageous stand against the priests of Voodoo.  I knew this man slightly.  Martyrdom becomes so much more real when we lose one of our own.

     As some of you are gearing up for back to school, here is an article that describes the trade-offs of in-person schooling, remote learning, and home learning.

     Social media needs manners.  Here is one pastors’ idea of what these might look like. 

CHURCH SERVICES

     Once again, as long as social distancing is recommended, if you decide to stay home for reasons of conscience or from an abundance of caution, we honor, respect, and support your decision. We continue to offer livestream service at 11 AM and 5 PM here.  If you find that there are still starts and stops and gaps in the livestream service, you may access the recorded service by clicking on the link above. This is available shortly after the conclusion of the livestream.  This should eliminate those difficulties.  If neither of these works well, our audio sermons are available at Sermon Audio

ZOOM SUNDAY SCHOOL

    Pastor Julian Zugg will continue to teach the adult Sunday School class on the Holy Spirit on Zoom.  Watch your email for the Zoom links to Adult Sunday School, which runs from 9:40-10:30 and the Zoom chat after Evening Worship, which begins around 6:15.  

     Your officers are praying for you, and are privileged to minister to you in any way that you may find helpful.   And remember, if you are ever in need of spiritual counsel or prayer, please ask me, Pastor Lou, or one of the elders. This is what we are here for.  We are happy to serve you in this way!

Love in Christ,

Pastor Clay

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