Deceptive Pastors

Because mutual trust pertains to the living core of society, deceit—the disposition to deceive—is among the most serious of social sins. In larger societies, such as an entire country, we anticipate some measure of deceit, but we are less tolerant of it in smaller social units, especially communities formed by close friendships and shared convictions.

I wonder if this was ever more the case than among the early Christian congregations. Rejected by the Jews (John 16:2; cf. 9:22,34; 12:42) and held in deep suspicion by the Romans (Acts 16:21), each local church seriously depended on the shared trust of its internal relations. These churches came to represent a sort of tertium quid in society, a distinct genus; indeed, the Roman historian Suetonius refers to them as a “genus of men (genus hominum) of a new and evil superstition”(“Nero” 16.2). In such a setting, internal trust was necessary to the very existence of a Christian congregation.

This necessity was particularly emphatic in a congregation’s relationship to its evangelists and pastors. The Apostle Paul perceived this from the very beginning; already, in the earliest extant book of the New Testament, he reminded the believers at Thessalonica of this element of trust during their conversion the previous year.

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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