Churches will always face spiritual attacks because our enemy doesn’t want us here. Sometimes they will be physical and violent, and come from outside the church. Sadly, we saw that last week. Others, will come from inside the church through unfaithful teaching or moral failure from those who were actually set apart to lead.
Last night I got “the news” about Tullian Tchvidjian’s resignation at Coral Ridge. An affair. It was just sad. Apparently both spouses had affairs. Brutal.
How can anyone trust pastors? My wife asked that questions to me last night. There certainly are bad pastors out there. Shepherds who have been called to lead the flock and have led with an iron fist or with not at all. There are Charlatans, quacks, and racists.
How did this affair eventually (few affairs happen overnight) occur? What could have been done differently? This is not that kind of blog post. I’m sure there will be many posts, some helpful, some harmful, just as when Mark Driscoll resigned (though his was not due to sexual infidelity).
Here are 6 takeaways:
1.) All “individual” sins have communal consequences and we can be mad. If there’s one thing that the scriptures, Tullian’s affair, and Breaking Bad, all teach us, it’s that selfishness destroys others. Sin never makes good on its promise to liberate. Never. And that should make us angry. As George Seinfeld said, “These pretzels, are making me thirsty!” I’m thirsty for mega-church pastors to not HAVE to step down. And don’t pull out the platitude: “Don’t judge.” This behavior sucks, and sucks life from those whom they love/loved and those who love/loved them. Don’t feel guilty if you feel anger and disappointment.
2.) Anger at the sins of others, MUST lead to anger at our own sins. We are people of extremes, saying “Well, that could be me, so…” or “That couldn’t ever be happen to me, so…..” Let us learn from the parable of the Prodigal Sons, where anger emanated but didn’t penetrate the older brother’s own self-righteous heart. We need to ask, how have I been living selfishly? How do I not love my wife and kids? How do I need Jesus to forgive me today? What am I trusting in instead of Jesus today? If we’re not equally as angry at such pastors (I’m contextualizing for myself, for you it may be someone different), as we are at our own sins and shortcomings, then we’ve completely deceived ourselves into thinking that WE are responsible for our growth in grace. We’re not.
3.) Sadness needs to move us to turn to our Savior. In Luke 7:36-50, Jesus forgives a woman of ill repute. The more aware of our sins we are, the more aware and appreciative we become of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus is our sole righteousness, our solid rock. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling. Let us hope in Him, cling to Him, ask that he convict us, empower us to slowly become less selfish, and be confident that the plethora of issues we have this side of heaven are only temporary.
4.) Don’t say you’ll pray for someone if you won’t. I’ve got a number of people to pray in my congregation to pray for. So I’m not going to lie and say, “I’ll be praying for Tullian.” I’d like to, and hope I will, but I honestly can’t pray for everyone. But I do know that he has people who can point him and his wife to gospel, and maybe to marital reconciliation. And plenty of people praying for him as well. I’m pulling for him.
5.) Consequences. Most vocations are not lost due to affairs or divorces or other public moral failures. Pastorates, however, are. And we know that. It is more than just our vocations that are at stake though, it is the glory of Christ’s body that is shamed. By the way, the same goes for sexual behavior of church members. Stakes are very high, and so consequences are too. So Tullian needs to resign, repent, and rest. His life will never be the same, and we should all understand that. But let us also remember that God’s grace is so great that we never experience the full consequences, or even most of the consequences our sins deserve. I fail as a father, husband, pastor. I need to be more patient, pray more, trust more, listen more. I’m thankful my wife loves me, my kids do, and as far as I know, my church does. God has graciously limited the consequences of my sin and stupidity since I became a husband, pastor, and father. I’m pretty sure he’s limited your consequences as well.
6.) Don’t burn his books. Should I throw away my Tullian books? I actually have several of them, and used his commentary to help me preach through Jonah. Of course not! Some pastors I will forever refuse to read, like Confederate Flag supporting Doug Wilson, because I think they are ungracious and possibly racist. Even if they have something to say, someone else has probably already said it. While Tullian and I may not have been close friends had we been in the same presbytery, I would rather read someone who preaches grace, has experienced forgiveness, and who recognizes his failures. Even though he didn’t believe as fully as he should have the gospel he preaches WHEN he began the affair (none of us do by the way and that’s why we sin!), the gospel he preaches is nevertheless true. That doesn’t change anything because the gospel changes everything, regardless of the failures of its many preachers-like me. It does change people. Often times change comes much slower than we hope. But in the end, resting in Christ’s performance for us is the only way to live, rejoice, honor Jesus, and eventually look more like Him.