Part 2: No Fundamental Difference!
After a season of dealing with my own sin issues and failures, I began to realize that there were a substantial amount of men in the same boat who had also been involved in ministry. I am well aware of the consequences of my sin and that pastors are held to a higher level of accountability and that sadness, grief, and prayer are understandable responses to a scandal in the pastorate, but surprise or shock is another matter. Shock reveals the fact that somewhere along the way we’ve come to believe that there is a fundamental difference between church leaders and church goers—that somehow leaders are less sinful. But, while there is a functional difference between church leaders and church goers and pastors are to be held accountable, there is not a fundamental difference between leaders and goers.. The idea that congregants and clergy don’t struggle with the same things is a misconception. Pastors are human beings with all of the same flaws, fears, and sinful tendencies that the rest of humanity has. They don’t live outside the bounds of reality or human nature. Our friend Jacob Smith once said that all of us are three bad days away from becoming a tabloid headline, and most of us are already on day two. All have fallen short, even our clergy. That goes for every denomination and theological persuasion under the sun.
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
It is anti-Christian to remember people primarily by the scandalous things they've done. We love to whittle an entire life-story down to a single season. Then, with the authority invested in us by the state of self-righteousness, we proclaim, “This, and nothing else, is who you are.” But the truth is, all of us (including disgraced Christian leaders) are more complicated than the singular narrative by which most people identity us. We have done very bad things, very good things, and plenty of cocktails of them both. Sadly, most people remember only the bad. Thankfully, we have a God who remembers only the good. And the only good he remembers is the good that Christ has done for us, in us, and through us. So, if we want to reduce our life story down to one adjective, if we want to whittle our biography down to a single word, then let it be this: Beloved.
How can the church make it clear to clergy, trapped inside the shame-filled prison of their sins, that they too are Beloved?
Song of Solomon 6:3 I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine:
Unconditional love is purposefully blind. It’s blind to whether its recipient stood in the pulpit or sat in the pew. It’s blind to whether the sin hurt many or only a few. It’s blind to the fake hierarchy of big sins and little sins that is the working assumption in many religious circles. Unconditional love is blind to everything but the ones who stand there—or lie there—broken, shamed, guilty, and dying to hear even a single voice that says, “I love you. I forgive you. I see you as one for whom Christ died.”
That love is like the voice of God at the beginning of Genesis: it creates. For the ones who reside in the darkness of guilt, it says, “Let there be the light of hope for them.” For those who are dying to taste even a drop of mercy, it says, “Let the waters of absolution flow into that parched heart.” Unconditional love comes to that person whose life has been uncreated, and speaks creative words of life once more. And God sees that it is good. He sees that it is very good.