Whether it is large-scale bribery, like what has been investigated in Montreal or just opaque decision-making processes, you have likely heard the phrase “drain the swamp” applied to politicians and bureaucrats. Their self-interest and even corruption are a byword to most people. Examples are easy to come by, but let me challenge you with this thought: most of these people are just like you and me.
To be sure, public office and positions of governmental authority pose unique temptations in their work. But frankly, every kind of work poses some kind of temptation. So we should not be surprised to find the need for a process of reconciliation even within the walls of the church.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”
I think the thing that bugs me about the “drain the swamp” adage is the superiority of it. Even if it is work that needs doing, you live in that swamp. You can see it more clearly in the church. If you turn a fellow Christian from sin, Jesus describes that outcome as having “won them over.” ‘Drain the swamp’ sounds like getting rid of people, but what Jesus is talking about bring people together. So when we correct and even rebuke people, let’s do it in a way that brings us closer.
When I approach it that way, I realize I have the privilege of walking that much more closely with another person whom God loves and is seeking to conform to the image of His Son. And when I am being corrected, I don’t need to be defensive if I trust that this person is doing this for my good. We’re all in this thing together.
There is so much fear, pride, independence, self-reliance and self-promotion that comes to the surface when we seek to resolve conflicts. The North American church has not dealt with it well; we are fractured and fractious.
So what is my part? I need humility to accept correction. I need to build trust with my fellow Christians that they understand my words are meant well. I need to embrace Jesus, for the swamp is in me and I can’t drain it on my own.
Lord, search and purify my heart. Help me to be my brother’s keeper.