Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Moral Failings and The Sharp Side of Grace

A week or so after the news of another pastor's moral failing, and I have some further observations. Your mileage may vary.

1. The vast majority -- as in hundreds -- of the blog posts and Twitter tweets about the episode are expressing what I can only describe as "condolences" for the offending pastor: words of support, promises of prayer, etc. Compare this to less than 10 (by my count) saying anything whatsoever (let alone promises of prayer) about the woman he slept with, and even less about her husband, who appears to be completely forgotten by everyone saying anything publicly about this.

2. The vast majority of these online words are directed to the pastor because he's the guy we care more about. He represents something big to evangelicals. Success, prominence, visibility. His gifts are of such a value to us that we cannot fathom living without them. (I remember back when, on another blog, some of us were sorting through the extensive verbal and emotional abuse of staff by a pastor, and a commenter literally said, "I don't care what he did. He always will be my pastor." This was because he was the "best speaker" the commenter had ever heard.) This is also why this most recent failing is being called a "mistake" or a "flaw" while the man's assistant is being treated like a seductress.

3. People are having a really difficult time using the word "sin" in this discussion, except when quoting John 8:7 at the cynics. People are quoting Scriptures, but hardly anyone is speaking in biblical categories. This is how we fail to learn from crises like this.

4. We are people of grace and our impulse should be grace. To all parties. It may be difficult for some to understand this, but it may not be grace to get a fallen pastor back into the pulpit as soon as possible. It is not grace to him, because it puts our expectations and needs ahead of his walking into repentance. It is not grace to those who love him because it puts him back into the breeding ground of his temptation and weakness in a time of distrust and anger. It is not grace to the woman he slept with because she won't get her job back. And it is not grace to that woman's family because it is saying justice is too inconvenient for us.

5. This is hard for people -- especially sweet, tenderhearted people -- to understand, but there is a sharp side to grace. The sharp edge of grace is when we disassociate ourselves from abusers, for instance, in order to bring peace to their victims. The sharp edge of grace is when we insist on severe consequences and discipline for offenders for their own benefit rather than rushing them back into restored office and responsibility. It is not grace to pretend like an affair is a speed bump and we should just forgive and forget and try to put everything back together as quickly as possible.

6. An affair isn't a "mistake." It's not something you trip into. It is a sign of long developing brokenness. Let's call it what it is (sin) so that we can appropriately and powerfully bring gospel to all those involved in the mess, not just the guy we really like.


Derek Brown said...

Very well said.

Anonymous said...

Oh, such a good post! I especially appreciate #5. I was on staff with a church for 3 years where one of our pastors left the Lord and left his wife and children. It was a tragic situation and I think most churches don't really know how to deal with that kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

I want to have an affair with you, Jared! : - )

Seriously.... the whole "popularity" and "prominence" factor is what kills me.

If you have a "name" and a "following"... then you are alloted more slack, it seems. But, just in that... a name and a following.... reveals that this is never about Jesus or the Gospel. These folks aren't following or don't know what it means to follow Christ.

They want to put a band-aid on a hemorrhage.

But the blood that was spilled on the cross... is not the blood they are concerned about. It's the blood that seeps into the lives of those surrounding the wounded one(s).... and even then... there is a hierarchy of importance... as to who gets better treatment.

I sometimes lose my faith in the middle of these sort of things.... not in Jesus... but in the people who so loudly and publicly profess their relationship with Him... only to prove... in damaging ways... to so many... that they are pretenders.

I'm sorry for the hurt and the pain and the sin that seems to run rampant in the church... but I have a hard time glossing over it.

You're caught between the Rock and a hard place (the world), Jared... but I so appreciate your determination and perseverance in calling for reform amongst our brethren.

You don't stand alone.

Peace be with you as you.

kind regards,

c. evan leonard