“Do you think this gives you the right to mock that pastor?!” She was really angry at me. She had not talked much to me or about me, but today she, ultimately reminding me that I was not the anointed one who dealt with God, and should not dare raise my hands against him. (I had not raised anything against anyone, merely asked one lighthearted question about what this pastor had matter-of-factly stated.) My attempt to explain this uselessly bounced off of her and never hit their mark. She made another reference to David and Saul, pointing out that David would not date usurp the authority of Saul, even as Saul was wrong, because Saul was “anointed” by God. Eventually I realized there was hardly any more reason to continue talking, and slowly continued to shrink back, while smiling and nodding, until I disappeared.
Life is often all about balance. There are two extremes, which are easy to swing to, and a golden center, a perfect sweet spot, in the middle. For some reason it’s always easier to veer to one of the sides, rather than stay in the middle. It reminds me of a child on a swing, if you step too far back, then your swing propels you past the center, and far out to the front. When you are swung to the front and want to go back to the center, your swing drags you past the center to the other extreme side.
Respect for the pastoral ministry is often like that. I have been exposed to both extremes. I remember hearing sermons telling people to stop gossiping and ridiculing pastors (so I assume they were doing it), and yet I also remember this unquestionable, even cult like, devotion many people had towards leaders. I may be wrong in the extent of this, but in my experience, the two most popular positions were/are two extremes. Ridiculing and mocking the pastor, with no respect whatsoever. Or, unquestionable loyalty to the pastor, as though He were inerrant, infallible, and the intercessor between God and man.
1. What does it mean to “touch” the Lords anointed?
Throughout the years I have been bombarded by one peculiar idea about church leadership and the Lords anointed. And that is: “God put this person in authority, not us, so if he is wrong, its Gods job to deal with him. Our job is to never question that leader, but always obey.” Many contemporary preachers and evangelists (Benny Hinn, for example) often propagate this about themselves as well, always quoting Psalms 105:15 and warning people of God’s judgment for those that dare question them. The concept of “touching” the Lords anointed is often directly taught as “disagreeing with” or “questioning” leaders/pastors. Whenever I would question something a preacher said, with the intent of seeing if it is indeed true, I was often shamed and threatened with “do not touch the Lords anointed!” Is that what “touching” means? To have a critical eye and scrutinize or analyze? No; looking at the whole passage in context (Psalm 105:10-15), we see this Scripture reminds us of the past journey of the Hebrews. This is not a future command towards special individuals. In this passage God recounts the Israelites voyage into Canaan and reminds us that he forbid other nations to kill and physically destroy the Hebrews. Paying attention to the context we can see that “touching” the Lords anointed means killing and physical destruction. Hardly the same as putting a pastors doctrine and theology under analysis.
2. Who are the “Lords anointed”?
This is an even greater question. Who are these anointed people? Where can we find them? Do they have a special mark on them? I have often been taught by fundamentalist legalists and hyper-spiritual charismatics that “the anointed” are those whom God has ordained for ministry. Oh yeah? So does that mean the rest of the people are “not anointed” then? In the Psalms 105:10-15 passage the context directly refers to all of Israel, not to a few Israeli leaders. Yet, to be fair, there were some in the Old Testament who were specially anointed do to priestly, kingly, and prophetic ministry. The rest of the people were not anointed to ministry. However, in the New Testament, we see the breaking of this secular-sacred divide. All believers in the New Testament are anointed by God. I’m not making this up, God did. In 1 John 2:20 we can read an address to the church (not just to ordained leaders) that says “you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” Peter tells us this even clearer, telling Christians that all of us (every single Christian) is part of “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). All Christians are now sacred, all Christians are now anointed, all Christians are now priests, all Christians are now filled with the Holy Spirit that only a few anointed people had in the Old Testament (2 Cor 1:21). Now here is the question, if we are all anointed, who does the “touch not the Lords anointed” passage apply to?
3. How can we “touch” the Lords anointed?
This is where someone would counter with “You saying we can just mock and disrespect all pastors!” No, that is hardly the case. Just because a leader is not inspired, inerrant, and a man-God intermediary, should not give us reason to disrespect him. If a leader is leading well, and we can confirm his teachings with the Scriptures like the Bereans did (Acts 17:11) we ought to obey and be under his authority (as he is under Christ’s ). However, questions do arise about leaders that are not leading well, or are not transparent and under godly authority. How do we deal with that? Are we allowed to be critical or analyze and scrutinize a pastor? This is something that needs to be done very carefully, but yes is can and needs to be done. There are two big ideas from the Scriptures. The first is “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses” (1 Tim 5:19). We can clearly see that an elder may be disqualified, and in such cases it is vital to deal with the issue, however, this is not to be done through malicious gossip, but through a serious investigation with multiple eyewitnesses. The second big idea is that important church leaders can be called out for incorrect doctrine/practice (though not via slander on the internet). At one point in time Peter (the founding Apostle) becomes a flip-flopper, and abandons a group of gentiles to become a holy hypocrite in front of his Hebrew friends. Paul is onto this, and fearlessly rebukes him in a godly way (Gal 2:11-21). It’s right and proper for one leader to rebuke another Christian leader for error, and hypothetically, if all the leaders fail, by the church body.
We often have a tendency to swing to one of the extremes. We either become scandalous gossips who constantly mock our leaders or those who attribute infallibility to human leaders. Neither extreme is healthy, but there is a golden center where we listen to our leaders, “test everything and hold fast what is good” (1 Thess 5:21).