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.

8 comments on “Should I stay submitted to an authority that mistreats me?

  1. It has been interesting reading especially for a new minister. My beliefs that Godly order is

    needed in all our lives but God uses people to connect up with one another. Elijah with

    Elisha, Paul and Timothy, these relationships come about by the will of God and God is a

    supplier of our needs. The same way he says one child might ask for bread another for

    fish another for egg found in Luke 11:11-13. I believe is the same way we all differ and

    some may need a covering Praise God, some may not need a covering Praise God. As

    believers begin to get the revelation that God is all we need. Martha only one thing is

    needful Jesus said. God said he would not withhold any good thing. So I’ll let the Holy

    Spirit decide he knows me better than I know me. Amen

  2. My whole thing The problem is that Jesus DOES say to endure mistreatment in the sermon on the mount. The whole turn the other cheek, bless and don’t curse, give them your tunic too, pray for them. Then the bible actually DOES say to give it to the Lord because vengeance is his. You may not like this and may think it is not “grace”, BUT it is what the word of God says. I personally don’t believe in covering theology BUT these reasons don’t actually refute it.

    -Josh

  3. I think you are missing something. In the sermon on the mount Jesus was speaking to a crowd of people oppressed by an overwhelming occupying force. Jesus instructed people to not physically resist the people who are oppressing them. In this situation I would agree that the scriptures are clear that we not resist, but should cooperate and bless those that curse. Jesus didn’t instruct the people to actively and continually give their lives over to their oppressors. He instructed people to endure mistreatment, but not to go back for more. Jesus told people to turn the other cheek and carry a pack an extra mile, he didn’t tell them to join the oppressing force.

    There is a difference between non-violently enduring mistreatment and staying submitted to a leader in the church who is abusing their power. Things are different in the church, and both Paul and Matthew instruct in how to handle someone who is abusive in the church. Neither of these people instruct people to stay submitted.

    Paul also wrote the following to the Corinthians who had submitted to the “superapostles.”

    2Co 11:4 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the One we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the One you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

    2Co 11:19 After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools!
    2Co 11:20 You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face.

  4. LT,

    Your interpretation of the Bible is correct. There’s no such foolishness as the “covering” that the apostolic/charismatic movement has oppressed the people of God with. Even if their attentions were sincere at the start-it has turned out to be a disaster. It’s foolish for anyone to think they don’t have to submit to anyone in authority or not in authority. We must be submissive to each other to be able to have amicable relationships. But these people have made submission evil and have wounded so many people so badly until they want nothing else to do with God or the church. I must say that my experience have been in small to medium churches where the congregation is predominately African American. The membership is no more than 15 people (small) and 500—1000 (medium). In the smaller churches the Pastor and the congregation are uneducated (school and exposure wise). They are overbearing controlling leaders that do not have a vision or goals for their own lives-let alone for the church. They are just collecting money and doing nothing for the community. They command people to call if they are not going to attend church and other God forbidden commands that are just erroneous. The larger churches make it impossible for you to be in leadership if you don’t agree with everything they say. I have fought against this doctrine for years and will continue to fight against it. Even God himself gives us the choice to choose and when man takes another choice away he has stepped in a position that God himself dosen’t take.

    These people have put fear in people that want to leave their churches. Making them feel like they are uncovered. I had one person to tell me the first lady of a small church; told a member,” if they don’t pay their tithes that God will give them a mental illness”. Now how ignorant and evil is that foolishness. This covering and Pastor only authority has gotten out of control and God is angry about it!

  5. Thankyou, thankyou, thankyo, thank you, I feel so free because this study has set me free from authority abuse. God bless you sooo very much I pray.

  6. I just want to say thank you and God Bless you in your Obedience to clarify “covering”. It grieves my Spirit when we as Christians make it more complicated than it should be. We are Saved by Grace Through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who was Blessed with ALL Authority in the heavens and on earth by Our Heavenly Father. Praise God! The Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Amen.

  7. If we take a serious zoom back on the time line of church history we find that the super-minister day has come and gone. In fact we are still dealing with the fruit of the ‘idolatry’ our generations past and present have indulged in. Now we are dealing with the self proclaimed super prohetic and super aspostle movement and it is nothing less than those who flagrantly proclaim that they will be like the Most High God. Will be be the fools who bow down to these images and give our lives up for a cold bowl of mush? God forbid, we must wake up, rise up and make changes so that we do not lead this generation to run their race in vain.
    The above writers have spoken well to weed out the reality that we are called to a relational government within the body of Christ. The pastor is only one of the ministers to tend and equip the body. Where did anyone ever get the notion that the pastor is the head of the church? And yet since 400 AD the Roman Empire has left its leaven within church government to this very day.
    There is a re-forming of the bride of Christ, where the priesthood of all believers is in motion. Let us keep Jesus as the ‘only head of His church’. This will require wisdom and courage to step away from idolatrous systems and walk in the freedom that was purchased for us.

  8. Thank you for creating this site! It has been a long burning issue in my spirit. I have heard Prophets of God say, “If you don’t stay submitted to your local church pastor, something catastrophic will happen to you like the man who left my church and covering. Lo and behold several months after he left, his daughter died in a tragic boating accident.” Well my response to Mr. Ed Dufresne of Murrieta, California is this, “Well then, I suppose what Jesus did for me on the cross was of no relevance or importance. It seems that you your theology replaces Jesus with you and the pastor!” Such ridiculous teaching from the pulpits of North America! And, unfortunatley, many have, are and will be trapped by this teaching. It is nothing more than over controlling, self-centered, personal wealth building, mind controlling so called men of God. People, let’s begin to study the word for ourselves, we will see that Jesus operated in love, He never instilled fear in the people. Paul says it most clearly, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind, 2Tim. 1:7. If my bible is correct, which it is, didn’t Jesus say, “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” Jn 14:19-20. So then if Jesus is in me and I in Him, I have nothing to fear not even a man who teaches false doctrine for self gain!

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