Friday, February 15, 2008

crushed by the Rock!

I received a letter from a dear friend today. He is struggling with "anger issues" regarding the fall of a prominent minister whom he had served for a number of years. He wrote to ask for counsel and help as he navigates through the gamut of emotions he is experiencing. I have personal experience with having served a prominent minister who also betrayed the trust reposed in him by God, the Church, his family, friends and his position of influence. People have asked me continuously since the exposure of his sin, if I am angry at him. I have processed that question from every conceivable angle and my answer is still, "No I'm not angry with him."

I suppose my realization that he is going through the "darkest" season of his life precludes me from passing judgement on him for his poor choices (don't misunderstand me to be saying I condone his choices), knowing that God has humbled him by judging him in a very public setting so that He can heal him. His family is probably more isolated than they've ever been, he is in dire financial straits, and all the good that he ever did appears to have faded into a distant memory for most people. When I think of all that, I feel as if the greatest gift I can give to him during this difficult but necessary season of repentance, healing, and restoration, is the gift of my friendship and love.

It's been said ad naseum that all too often, we discard broken and wounded Christians as if they are old, worn socks. I've often wondered at the hypocrisy of believing in a man's calling and anointing even while he was steeped in sin, simply because we didn't know about it. However, once the sin is exposed, and the process of healing is done, we cannot find it within us to trust that God is able to work even greater things through a person that has been healed. So today I'd really like your feedback. Whatever your position on dealing with a fallen Christian leader, I would like your input on what you think I should tell my friend as he processes through this confusion. How do you think he should deal with the issue of his anger? Please don't be silent on this as I really value all of your insight. Thanks for speaking up.

11 comments:

Hope said...

This might sound like a strange analogy, but this is how I relate and process the fallen leadership issues. My company employs in excess of 70,000 people. There is an annual "performance" evaluation at the end of every fiscal year. Too often people have testified to the fact that it's what you've done in the final quarter that really gives rise to "rating". You could walk on water for 9 months but if anything happens in the last three - the previous 9 are as if they never existed. Fallen leaders need to be prayed for like all of us. Are they and should they be held to a higher standard? Yes. But perfection should not be expected of them and forgiveness should not be withheld. Is it not a sin to hold your brother in contempt?? Anger ... even Jesus got angry. It's how we respond that counts.

Thea said...

Very thought provoking...I've been thinking about it all morning. Truly, I don't feel I am in any position to offer advice on the subject because I am so close to walking through something similar in my own life for the 2nd time...the verse that keeps coming back to me is "love your neighbor as yourself" love is...patient....kind...not boastful...not rude...not easily angered...keeping no record of wrongs...and that's just a start. I don't think there's anything wrong with being angry...it's what you do with the anger that matters most. There is a sort of grieving process that happens in a situaiton like this because the person is often removed completely from life as it has been leaving you to deal with the situation in your own heart and anger is a part of the grieving process. It is when you don't move beyond this that bitterness can begin to take root. Mayabe asking ones self "what am I angry at?" will bring some clarification...are you angry at the person? angry at the enemy? angry for your own loss?

In my experience forgiveness often does more to bring freedom to my own heart than it may do for the person I forgive. That being said, while I have a deep sense of justice that has to be tempered by compassion...sometimes I do well with that and sometimes my deeply rooted disgust for injustice gets the better of me.
I hope I never know the darkness that brings about such a situation as those I have faced with leaders I care for but if I ever do, I hope those around me will take it upon themselves to forgive me after they are finished being angry...so that I can more easily find freedom in Christ myself and rest a little easier knowing that their faith has them pointed still in the right direction. We cannot forget that when a part of our body is sick...we cannot just remove it...it deserves the chance to be healed first, so we can be whole. It's certainly a good reminder that no one is exempt from the attack of the enemy and no one is too far to be saved and restored...we all have access to the grace and forgiveness of the Lord regardless of who is angry with us or how we have fallen.

Joseph said...

Wow! Hope and Thea, thank you guys so much for your keen insight on this subject. I really do appreciate what you both had to say.

Anonymous said...

After years 25+ years as a Christian, being a part a few churches where we were majorly disappointed by a pastor or a leader and giving to TV ministries over the years that fell by the wayside, I can understand the anger & disappointment. However, your friend needs to ask himself who he's angry with...the pastor for sinning? God for letting him get away with it? or himself for not having a clue and having his pride hurt? The bottom line is that when we give of our hearts, time, service and money to the ministry, we need to do it believing that we are giving to God, not the man in the ministry, period. Which ultimately means that God, knowing our heart at the time we gave, still honors what we gave and it still counts towards the good of the Kingdom. Once you've given, what happens to what you gave in the hands of others simply doesn't matter. God deals with it. If your friend is able to let go of his disappointment in this pastor, remembering that he is just as human as the rest of us, and simply trust God has everything under control, then hopefully he can let go of his anger..otherwise he's only hurting himself.

Joey said...

If God could use a Moses after he murdered the Egyptian or David who committed adultry AND murder or a Paul who terrorized Christians then who are we to say that a Christian leader who has "fallen" and then been "restored" cannot be used again? By expecting Christians to be completely "sinless" we are setting an unrealiztic standard for the world. Yes, we are called to be holy but we cannot be perfect. I know personally wonderful Christians who were denied going on the mission field because they had been divorced. WHAT??? WHY??? So that tells me that rorganization would never have sent out Paul with his history...

Anonymous said...

There are so many 'qoutes' and 'sayings' that come to mind..."Let he that is without sin cast the first stone", "...Judge not, lest ye yourselves be judged...", "...but the greatest of these is love...". Our default nature is sinful and every so often, every one of us struggles with something that is potentially sinful. Sometimes we succumb. Hopefully most times, by grace alone, we overcome. If those around us knew of these perpetual struggles and the occassional failures that we are all subject to, we may not get out of bed for shame. Maybe your friend should use his anger as a means to an end and not as an end in itself. His anger is OK only if it directs him to look inwards at himself and the reason for this emotion (usually it is to do with ourselves) and then turn it inside out so that he can find it within himself to forgive. It's not easy but it is certainly possible to do. I really hope this helps. I have certainly found it useful in my own life.MENDEDBONES

Joseph said...

Anonymous, thanks for your helpful insight. I will certainly pass it on to my buddy.

Joey, great food for thought. What would the history of the Church be without Paul?

MendedBones, I really appreciate your feedback, I'm confident it will help my friend through this difficult season.

Russ said...

Hey Joseph,
As you know,I also recently experienced a situation with a pastor who I had held a great deal of respect for, who fell from grace. And I found myself counseling a lot of people with a great deal of anger. This anger was directed at him for all of the reasons that you stated in your blog. Anger is certainly an emotion we all have and need to have the ability to express, however, when anger becomes untamed, it begins to project a negative effect. Just like news reporters who sometimes try to sensationalize the news instead of reporting the facts, the untamed anger continues to focus on the sin and does nothing to help people move forward. One needs to look at the motive of that anger and they will probably find that in some cases it could be a little misguided. You hit the nail right on the head in your blog. God's a pretty "smart guy" and He will deal with pastor's misfortune. In counseling with others in our scenario, I suggested that they take all the energy they were putting into their anger and put it into their other emotions, such as compassion and love in order to assist in the healing process - particularly of the pastor's family, the church, and the younger, less mature, Christians who just needed someone to help them through the difficult time.

Joseph said...

Russell, thanks so much for your wisdom. I will make sure my friend gets the benefit of your comments.

Thea said...

Interesting comments left by everyone...my husband and I have been discussing this today.

One very difficult thing in all of this is that in walking through a situation with a friend where someone they trust and likely respected "fell" they may not be in a position to just put their energy into compassion or instantly move into forgiveness even if they want to or recognize its importance...how do you speak to the hurt or tenderness in someone's heart (especially if those tender spots are angry) without invoking a defensive response that can callous the heart? I say this because what a friend may be feeling is very real and depending on the situation, likely justfied...

I have found more times than not when someone is hurting and has been "churched" they can tell themselves the "right" answers...but more than anything they need hope restored, and a realistic reminder of God's grace shared or revealed in a way they can receive it with an open heart even when all of their questions can't be answered in the immediate. How do you do that? I don't really know...

it seems to me that Jesus was full of compassion and one thing he consistently did was to meet people where they were...not by changing his standards and character or affecting his integrity but by being with them...at their home...when they were in a tree...when they were dead and stinky...when they were dirty or diseased...and the preface for being with them wasn't always their pain. Maybe therein lies the genuine connection people needed to hear Him in earnest. I guess more than anything sometimes walking a bit with someone in life means more than suggesting how they ought to walk themselves. Not always possible...but often ideal. Thoughts?

Joseph said...

Thea, as always your comments are thoughtful and well reasoned. Much food for thought. Thanks for getting involved in the dialog.