While in Florida worshiping at a local church, a guest pastor who teaches new pastors, preached on several passages of Scripture, including Psalm 23. He said, “The Lord and your pastors are your shepherds. The Lord and the elders are your shepherds. It’s very important that you belong to a church family so that we can help you not sin against God. We will direct you in the right path and God will bless your family!”
These statements didn’t sit well with me and red flag warnings popped into my mind. Based on some personal pivotal spiritual experiences with religion and the modern day church, this interpretation sounded a lot like manipulation and control. I believe this kind of coercion and power over others mindset is directly opposite to the way Jesus preached and interacted with people when he walked planet earth. Anytime someone tries to coerce another person to follow their lead into doing what that person or organization thinks is best is blasphemy because it puts the person or institution in the place and position of God.
This pastor used spiritual manipulation to put himself and others like him over people. I’ve personally experienced spiritual and relational manipulation and have found that human power and control over a person or a group of people is not of God. It’s a lie from the pit of hell.
In The Passion Translation (TPT), Galatians 5:20 written below has been translated as ‘manipulating others’ instead of witchcraft:
Chasing after things instead of God, manipulating others, hatred of those who get in your way, senseless arguments, resentment when others are favored, temper tantrums, angry quarrels, only thinking of yourself, being in love with your own opinions,...
The following article gives some insight into manipulation. “God hates manipulation because it involves some form of deception or trickery in order to affect another person’s choices. Manipulation is motivated by either fear or selfishness- or both. Fear is not from God, and selfishness is contrary to the nature of God. Those who try to control others do so because they are afraid of what might happen if the person is able to make their own choices. Manipulators are selfish and try to control others because they want things their way- even if they have to step on the rights of others. Manipulators put themselves and the institution they serve over the ones they lead.” (https://www.jimandjanean.com/home/2019/5/20/whats-wrong-with-manipulation)
This human motivation is vastly different from the God I know. From studying Jesus’ life, He never used manipulative tactics to promote His Father’s Kingdom. He never forced anyone to accept what He offered. He made people in His image and then He gave us free will. Why do we humans try to change this dynamic, especially in religious settings? My story has taught me to be very wary of human shepherds and their motives. It is vitally important for continued spiritual healing, health, and growth.
Jesus, You are always enough! No more and no less. You and only You are my best friend and my Shepherd. I always have more than enough. You offer me a resting place in Your luxurious love. Your tracks take me to an oasis of peace near the quiet brook of bliss. That’s where You restore and revive my life. You open before me the right path and lead me along in Your footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to Your Name. Amen. Psalm 23:1-3 TPT Paraphrased