REFLECTIONS ON LOYALTY

“And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: (Also he bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow: behold, it is written in the book of Jasher.) The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil… How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me… (2 Sam. 1:17-21, 25-26 KJV).

David, a man after God’s heart, having learned of the defeat of Saul, was not happy about this, but sad. He grieved over Saul, over Jonathan, with whom he had a friendship. These were his sincere feelings, and not just another PR motion.

Not everyone of David’s surrounding understood him. Commander Joab told David once: “In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends…” (2 Sam.19:6). Joab did not know God, did not understand His heart.

“…And the Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul…” (1 Sam.16:1). Another man of God, who sincerely mourned for Saul, was Samuel. The prophet of God who anointed and supported David was not an enemy of Saul, when he denounced him and declared him God’s will. Samuel knew the heart of God, and therefore he mourned for Saul, possibly, he had spent not one night in tears about him. These were the people of God. What will they be today?

When yesterday, on Sunday, at the beginning of one of the meetings I learned that Ulf and Birgitta Ekman officially announced their decision to convert to the Catholic Church, it wasn’t unexpected for me, but I was not ready for it emotionally. My heart was mourning and I was distressed, but I somehow had to hold back the tears coming to the pulpit, in order not to let people notice it. How to explain it, how to say it? Because I was not the only one who loved Ulf with all heart. Should I have told people: “Thanks God, Ulf Ekman is Catholic?”… Strong anointed servant of God, through whom many blessings have come to people’s lives of the former Soviet Union, when our people came out of the darkness of communist dictatorship!

Yes, that time we were naive and inexperienced, not sufficiently educated theologically, but we loved God with all our hearts and were eager to serve Him, to do His will, to see revival in the lives of people jaded by atheist propaganda. But what had happened? How to renounce it?

It’s painful and sad. Yes, we assure ourselves that everyone has the right to choose, Catholics are our brothers, Christians! Yes, it’s true, but we do know that Ulf Ekman was anointed by the Holy Spirit to serve our people, to carry the evangelical faith, for which he worked, paid the price, and taught us this way!

Many of us know this price, when we were suffering not only from the hands of godless officials, but also experiencing persecution from members of other denominations. However, all these years we have been learning to love Orthodox and Catholics, showing that evangelicals are Christians who want to be like Christ, the good and decent people. We saw a good change in the relationship, communication and joint projects occurred, which could benefit the whole society. I heartily thank the Orthodox Christians, Catholics who have prayed for me and all evangelical Christians, who love us for who we are! Our doctrinal differences ceased to be a wall separating us, but we are not trying to change each other, to “pull” each other on our side.

Imagine that the leaders of the Orthodox or Catholic Church would move into the “womb” of the Protestant Church… Perhaps some of Protestants would be glad, but would ordinary Orthodox, Catholics approve this? Would the priests who followed the example of their leaders, supervisors and mentors be glad? They would be confused, frustrated and disappointed. They would feel betrayed, abandoned, rejected!

Not for nothing in Scripture there are these words: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. (1Kor.4:1- 2) The word “required” speaks for itself. Minister is obliged to.., from the minister it is required. Just as parents are required to be faithful to their children, a husband must remain faithful to his wife, the governor – to his country…

I do not blame Ulf Ekman, let God be his judge. But I condemn his actions as reckless, irresponsible and frivolous! Did he think about the people who had faithfully followed him? Did he think of the pain and sadness in their hearts? Hardly.

I remember during our last meeting, I asked him only one thing: “Support the people who are moving away from God because of all that is happening, write a few words to them. I would do it myself, but you’ve destroyed my authority by slander and lies, so people will not listen to me, but listen to you.” In response Ulf openly laughed in my face, and my heart throbbed with pain for those people, who came to God not in a simple way. I and many Ukrainian ministers had to literally lift some people from the bottom of life, give them so much time and effort, help them to follow God…

Once Ulf Ekman told me these words: “Remember, do not make big mistakes when you’re over 50 – there is no time to fix them”. And now, looking at his fatal mistake, I understand that there is virtually no time to fix it. To end up life in defeat – the worst thing that can happen.

I understand that over and over there will be people in his entourage, who will continue to flatter themselves and him speaking about “a new level”, “God’s voice”, “courageous act”, etc. All this things have already happened, but may be enough to dissemble?

My heart is crying. Crying about Ulf Ekman, crying about the people who are cheated, about ministers who threw huge “stones” in our direction being eager about Ulf, but now what? They left the church with words: “We’re following Ulf”. Where should they go now?

I apply to all ministers and Christians, and I beg you: do not attack each other with accusations and excuses! Do not hurt, do not insult each other! Do not gloat! Everything that has happened – it is an occasion only for sadness and prayer: God, help me to be faithful to You and to the people You have entrusted me!

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