The following is found in the editorial review for John Bevere’s “How to respond when you feel mistreated”

“Repay no one evil for evil” (Romans 12:17 NKJV). Easier said than done, right? But that’s exactly what John Bevere recommends in How to Respond When You Feel Mistreated. We are all subject to some authority, and those in leadership often misuse their power and hurt others. But we as Christians are called to honor and submit to authority, even if it means accepting unfair treatment. “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19 NKJV). God’s justice often takes longer than we want to wait, but it does come. And our obedience in accepting suffering increases His work in the lives of others. Ultimately, our model for responding to unfair treatment is Jesus. And by enduring suffering as He did, we are made more like Him. This book is categorized under deliverance and personal growth and spiritual understanding.

One of the most controversial tenets in covering theology is the call to submit to leaders that mistreat their subordinates.  Bevere holds up Jesus as our example to follow.   The nature of such advice should never be easily disregarded.  Jesus should always be our ultimate example.  Jesus did suffer and die at the hands of the religious and governmental authorities.

Christ’s Example

Paul also holds Christ’s example in high regard.

Php 3:10  My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death,
Php 3:11  and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

The problem with Bevere’s logic is that if you are going to hold Jesus’ relationship with the authorities of his day as an example you would have hold up his entire life.  Jesus was anything but submissive to the religious authorities in his life, unless calling people blind guides (Mat 23:16) and sons of hell (Mat 23:15) is submission.  Not to mention explicitly warning people to be discerning about following their teaching (Mat 16:16) or their example (Mat 23:3).  Jesus wasn’t particularly cooperative with Herod either (Luke 23:9).  Jesus was fully submitted to his Father and a complete pain to the establishment.  So were the disciples after his death and resurrection.

Jesus and Paul on dealing with sin and conflict in the church

God sometimes calls us to suffer, but it is according to his plan or for the sake of righteousness.  He does not instruct us to remain actively submitted to a member of the church that is mistreating us.  Matthew 18 shows us our path.

Mat 18:15  “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother.
Mat 18:16  But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established.
Mat 18:17  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.

Paul provided Timothy instructions on how to handle accusations about an elder.

1Ti 5:19  Do not accept an accusation against an elder unless it can be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
1Ti 5:20  Those guilty of sin must be rebuked before all, as a warning to the rest.

When would Timothy ever hear an accusation about an elder, unless there were accusations against elders?   In both examples we see that there are principles that guard against frivolous or malicious complaints.  There are different levels of engagement that need to followed through on.  Nothing in here limits the kinds of sin people can object to.  There aren’t any special provisions for elders who instruct their subordinates to sin.

Paul chastised the Corinthians for staying submitted to the “super apostles.”  Paul even brings up the example of being slapped in the face.

2Co 11:4  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough!

2Co 11:19  For since you are so wise, you put up with fools gladly.
2Co 11:20  For you put up with it if someone makes slaves of you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone behaves arrogantly toward you, if someone strikes you in the face.

John instructs the “elect lady and her children” not to receive anyone who does not remain in the teaching of Christ.  He warns them not to even give them a greeting because they would then share in his evil deeds.

2Jn 1:9  Everyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ does not have God. The one who remains in this teaching has both the Father and the Son.
2Jn 1:10  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house and do not give him any greeting,
2Jn 1:11  because the person who gives him a greeting shares in his evil deeds.

Vengeance is mine?

If I really truly cared about people and I was for one reason or another mistreating people, I would want someone to kick my butt.  I wouldn’t want someone to just endure while patiently waiting for God to exact vengeance on me.  This whole philosophy of waiting for vengeance completely gives up on the notion of  reconciliation.  If we are being mistreated by a church leader, any kind of leader, shouldn’t reconciliation be our first through rather than vengeance?  Where is grace in this?

Reconciliation is a huge part of the church’s ministry.  If we can’t be reconciled with our leaders when they are sinning how can we be agents of reconciliation with the world?

2Co 5:18  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
2Co 5:19  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
2Co 5:20  So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

The church and the Roman Empire are two very different things

The New Testament authors understood the reality of persecution.  All of Israel did as they suffered under Roman occupation.  In the sermon on the mount Jesus gave several examples, such as the famous turning of the cheek, where the meek and the oppressed did resist their oppressors.  This was given in a climate where resistance, at least physical, military or political resistance was futile.  Jesus knew this and the Jewish rebellion in 67 AD proved it.  He called people to a more subversive non-violent resistance that targeted the hearts and the minds of their oppressors.  He called people to live for a kingdom that was not from this world.  This amounts to acceptance and cooperation in the realm of the kingdom of this world.  We are still called to actively resist in the realms of the heart, mind and spirit.  Accepting the reality of worldly power cannot be equated to the kind of biblical submission we are called to in the church.  We are never called to stop working for justice and redemption in this world.

Covering theology tries to equate the church with the Roman Empire.  We can’t import Jesus’ instructions on relating to a brutal oppressive regime to the church.  The church is called to be and must be different.

Bad decisions aren’t mistreatment

There will inevitably come a time where we serve in churches and organizations with leaders that make mistakes.  Leaders are just like anyone else and sometimes they make good decisions and sometimes they make bad decisions.  Sometimes those bad decisions negatively impact ministries and cause people to get upset.  This isn’t mistreatment, it is just life together.  There has to be a certain amount of grace and toleration for mistakes.  This is not a cause for backbiting, gossip or backroom political manoeuvring.  Tension in a church or other organization has to be processed biblically.  Sometimes people find themselves out of step with where things are going and they need to carefully examine whether they need to realign or leave.

Some of the reasons why covering theology is so attractive is that it seeks to correct a serious problem in the church.  Far too often church members give no effort to cooperate.  They are so independent they refuse to live in real fellowship.  They are religious consumers that aren’t open to instruction or correction from anyone.  They often mistreat leaders.  Many well intentioned pastors discovered that their feelings meant nothing to people they were called to lead.  It is a great tragedy that we have spiritually aborted the lives of many gifted men and women.

Mistreatment in the church is never acceptable.