Over the last year it feels like high profile pastors, friends and colleagues in ministry have been falling from their ministries like dominoes, one after another. Its been depressing and dispiriting to hear of case after case from the Christian press or the denominational jungle drums. Their fall has been exclusively the result of sexual misconduct, no other way to put it.
My big question has been how to react, I mean beyond the initial unbelief and disappointment, “Who?” “Really?” I haven’t had it in me to join the chorus of condemnation that these things stir up on social media and in hushed conversations. I am guessing that nothing I would say would make most of those involved feel any worse about themselves than they do already and that the Holy Spirit does a pretty good job of leading people to repentance without my tuppence worth on Facebook. As I am just reentering pastoral ministry in a local church this whole issue has felt like its becoming more personal to me.
Reflecting on all of this I happened to read Eugene Peterson’s translation of 1 Cor 10:11-12 it might have been Peterson’s choice of words but I heard God’s voice through them
11-12 These are all warning markers—danger!—in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel—they at the beginning, we at the end—and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.
“Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else.” God, as he so often, probably because He is God, put His finger on my soul and pointed out my reaction to those I looked up to in ministry and shared ministry with who had fallen was NAIVE. I have often thought when hearing of another nose dive from ministry, “not him? (it is always a him)” but underlying that has been a naive attitude, it won’t ever be me. The truth is that I am just as capable of messing up as anyone else when it comes to sexual temptation.
In his book CHARIS Preston Sprinkle (yeah I know strange name) has a great one liner about King David and Bathsheba “Within seconds, a man after God’s own heart turns into a man after the woman next door” Listen, lets be honest, if it can happen to King David, a man after God’s own heart, if it can happen to ___________(insert name of fallen ministry hero or mentor) if it can happen to ____________ (insert name of ministry friend or colleague) then it can happen to James Petticrew and it can happen to ___________ (insert your name.) I’m male, I have a pulse, (yeah its still there and capable of racing) therefore I’m not exempt from sexual temptation. Neither are you my male pastor / church leader friend. (or just male Christ follower) No matter how close we are to God right now, how good our marriages are, how careful we are with opposite sex, lets not be naive enough to believe it cant happen to us. I bet David thought that, I bet ……….. thought that. I now recognise that I can fall flat on my face as easily as David.
I’m sure I need to think about strategies to guard my heart and marriage but right now I think for me the starting point to make sure I don’t make the church “Have you heard about ….. ?” headlines, is turning my back on the naivety and self confidence that it cant happen to me and turn to God for his strength and Ann my wife who I promised to be faithful to and who has made that promise easy to keep.
What about you?