It sounds like an essay title, doesn’t it?!
Aware of recent ‘scandals’ involving those in Christian ministry, I have begun to ponder this subject and my own reactions to it. This sort of thing used to make me furiously upset – that one person’s actions would colour others’ view of Christians, worse, of God. How could they?! Over time, instead, the rage was replaced by a disappointed resignation. Oh, I would think, the dullness reverberating around the word. Oh.
(This is not just those extremely well known and publicised, but occasionally someone known more personally to me. Oh. Usually those of whom we think ‘but they would never…’ Not seeing that, in fact, there but for the grace of God go all of us.)
This time my thoughts turned instead to our culture – and the culture of celebrity. How much does this influence the lives of Christians? How much have we bought into the same culture, unwittingly? In some respects it is unavoidable. With rapid globalisation, it becomes easier for someone to become widely known, as opposed to simply within their own neighbourhood. Everything is accelerated.
So how do we manage it? Individually, I mean. We so often pedestal-ize those we admire. (I am not a fan of pedestal-izing. It can only lead to breakage.) Where does admiration turn into hero worship? When does the ministry become the minister? Or the church the pastor? What happens when they fall off that plinth we’ve so carefully put them on, defended them and admired them? What happens when we discover they are flawed after all? Knowing the flawed nature of human beings does not lessen the disappointment we feel, nor take away the consequences of the actions involved.
But here are the questions to ponder. Do the actions of one person destroy everything they have done in God’s name? Does the ministry dissolve when the minister does? Is it all for nothing? Was it worth it? Was it genuine? Can the damage ever be repaired? I suspect the answers depend on the person – and their own experiences.
I’m reminded of those Old Testament heroes with their troubled, uncomfortable stories. I heard a sermon series once, entitled ‘heroes with clay feet’, which I think is an apt description. Abraham and his faith – and his doubt. Samson – what kind of a person was he that God should use him? And would King David ever have survived the media ruckus following the affair with Bathsheba – and her murdered husband? Yet he writes: wash me and I shall be as white as snow. Do we see the challenge in that?
The question that rumbles in the background:
Why does God choose such people? Why does he use them? He knows what they are capable of – for good and for bad.
Just as some are ready to pedestal-ize, others are ready to pounce. Should we jump to say ‘aha! I knew they were all for show! I knew their relationship with God wasn’t right!’ Can we really, ever, say such things? What does it mean not to judge, lest we too be judged? What does it mean to get rid of the immorality among us? How do we hold all this together?
Please note, these are just questions I am throwing out, and are not relating to a specific situation.
(I want to talk more, about where our foundations are, and the upkeep of them, and what this means for leadership, but this entry is long enough – I will save it for another time.)
God chooses the weak. What does this really mean?