From time to time I get questions about life events. My guess is that these people have some misplaced interest in my “wisdom.” Today I received a note from a good friend, a really bright young lady who is a graduate student at Oxford (not Mississippi). She was dismayed at the recent surfacing of allegations surrounding a high profile minister that died, not long ago. She expressed her dismay at the supposed event and asked my opinion. I thought you might be interested in my response. Just for the fun of it, I am starting with a “blocked-out” picture of a no-good, fallen, failed guy, not the one we are talking about. If you read to the end, I’ll uncover his face so you can see him. 🙂
Dear Christine, why do you only write to me with really hard questions? 🙂 I was disappointed to read some of the things lately that I have read. Some seem like fairly vague, after-the-fact accusations, but some seem to have the weight of apparent, written evidence. Who knows?
Here is my response…
It is sad, and difficult, that we live in an age where truth is so hard to come by. In my youth (a long time ago), perhaps there was a collective naïveté, but it seemed that certain sources were trustworthy, almost to the point of being sacred. There was a confidence in our ability to discern truth. Today, with social media, fake news, and agenda-driven reporting on EVERY front, frankly, I doubt my ability to really know about anything. Sadly, your generation has grown up with certain cynicism that makes that a little more palatable. For me, it is frightening and disconcerting. I miss Walter Cronkite. ( Google him 🙂 ). So, until I know I just remind myself that I don’t know and trust God with the “evidence” that I have.
That brings me to a place where three biblical TRUTHS are reaffirmed. First, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Sometimes I have trouble with that word ALL but I think people smarter than me have done the original language work to determine it means, well… ALL. There is not one person on the planet, never has been, never will be, (except for that brief 33-year period 2000 years ago) that has not carried the fallen sin nature in them and managed to exhibit it somewhere along the way. I often steal the Apostle’s testimony, “Christ came into the world to save sinners OF WHICH I AM THE WORST.”
Second Biblical truth, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3) still matters. I have been making idols of people, putting them on holy pedestals, my whole life, and it NEVER works out. Oh, I know God is god, but I sure try to make other people take His place; parents, coaches, ministers, college professors, (sometimes ME), and they always come up short. (I refer you to point number 1.) Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” but often listed all the ways he missed the mark. That doesn’t mean we stop expecting, even demanding accountability and holy living from our leaders, (religious, business, political) but it does mean that when they fall, and to some degree, they all will (I refer you AGAIN to point number 1), we offer them the same grace that we have received ourselves from the ONLY One who is without sin. And, I don’t allow anyone to become a substitute god.
Finally, I try not to confuse the message with the messenger. “What does it matter? Whether from false motives or true, the Gospel is being preached.” (Philippians 1:18) Some of the greatest Words the Holy Spirit has ever given us have come from fallen, frail people. (I offer the New Testament as exhibit A) Maybe that’s the whole plan of God, use flawed messengers so they don’t get in the way. In this day of personality-driven pulpits, bigger than life businessmen, and celebrity, career, congressmen, it is easy to let the speaker shine brighter than the speech. It ain’t supposed to be that way. God has a word and a wisdom for us and He will orchestrate it in such a way that He and He alone gets the glory for it. From the canon to the contemporary Christian mega-church podcast, the WORD supersedes the worker. Just because the preacher falls doesn’t mean the message of God is any less life-changing. God used Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22-24) to speak to the prophet. He can certainly use a messed up televangelist to challenge and change me.
Christine, there is a long, long, ever-increasing list of messed-up, misguided, morally lacking ministers, pompous, self-empowered politicians, and supersized, self-aggrandizing sports figures. Some of them I never liked anyway, and some broke my heart when they crashed and burned. ( BTW, I’m pretty sure I’m on somebody’s list somewhere.) It remains to be seen if this latest spiritual hero ends up on that list. But there is a holy and loving, grace dispensing God that has never failed, never faltered, and never disappointed me. So I must “keep my eyes on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) I will just keep trying to be like Him, love the fallen, and encourage those who are struggling in their faith. I see you doing that too. I believe in you.
Now, as promised, here is that scalawag that I mentioned at the beginning of the blog. (And his beautiful wife and one of his amazing sons. BTW, he is pictured as God sees him.) 🙂