A Response to A Pastor’s Moral Failure

Since the virility of a local pastor’s moral failure has already begun, for my part I would simply like to preempt whatever our initial reactions might be with a word in hopes that we would be kept from and inevitable temptations of gossip and self-righteousness and deception that have already begun to arise.

This crisis should be taken as an opportunity for pastors and Christian leaders to pray for and reach out to a large number of people whose trust has been broken in Jesus’ name–Lord, have mercy! But it is also an opportunity for us make haste to take our self-righteous high horses to the slaughter at the altar of humility–to be honest that it is but for the grace of God that we have not all succumbed in the same way in our behavior, since we have all succumbed in the same way in our heart. And according to Jesus we share the same guilt therefore (Mt. 5:27-30). But the Gospel with which we have been entrusted is nothing less than the announcement that God has shared that guilt with us–and forgiven it. And if Jesus can identify with my guilt at the cost of his blood, how dare I not identify with this man’s guilt at the cost of my honesty? I am guilty of lust, and I say so publicly today because I know that to deny my guilt is tantamount to denying God’s grace. If I evoke the name of Jesus, I do so because I have to, because I’m a sinner, because I am guilty and in need of grace. To deny that is to deny Him.

So let’s get over ourselves real quick and not be satisfied until all of that smugness about this failure has been mortified in our wicked hearts–until we can weep and not rejoice with those who are weeping today–lest we deceive ourselves and the world about the truth of sin and righteousness and judgment, enjoying a facade of innocence in a tomb of secrecy as regards our own complicity with the sin-list of Matthew 5, which will no doubt render us guilty of the unforgivable sin of Matthew 6. It’s one thing to sin in self-indulgence, quite another to lie about doing so while pointing with squeaky clean hands at another who’s sin has been exposed. But I need to warn you today that if you share the basin with Pilate, you can’t share the cross with Jesus.

Hypocrisy is the bread of the devil’s table. Let today be about another Bread and another Table. And for God’s sake, don’t pass the wine. For self-righteousness is wasted blood, and it’s not our blood to waste. 

God, be merciful to me a sinner.

One thought on “A Response to A Pastor’s Moral Failure

  1. Followup Discussions

    Jd Walt, Aaron Bradley Payne, Eva Y. F. Tsang and 40 others like this.

    Keldy Currie Spainhour If we are without sin, let us cast a stone. There will not be a stone left in sight as we walk away one by one. We are all full of sin. Yes, may He be merciful on me, a sinner.
    4 September at 12:26 · Unlike · 10

    Eva Y. F. Tsang Amen!! Lord, thank you for your GRACE at Calvary!!
    4 September at 12:31 · Unlike · 3

    Lindsey Taylor Hansen Heartbroken for the church and the body of Christ but amen to everything u said! Thankful to have men in the church who get it and lead from a place of humility and brotherly love!
    4 September at 13:25 · Unlike · 4

    Kevin Bobrow love your thoughts yet again. Very powerful, awesome reminder. I struggle not to criticize those in the Church at large who seem to be leading young Christians in the wrong direction, but you are totally right on that there really isn’t a place for that since I am daily a sinner in need of forgiveness. Was there a particular issue you were referring to here, or just the general castigation of pastors who have sinned among Christians?
    4 September at 13:53 · Unlike · 1

    Jeremy Spainhour Thanks, Kevin. And don’t get me wrong; we’ve got to speak violently against this type of sin for the sake of both human relationships and the Church’s witness through the fundamental sacrament of marriage (and perhaps we’d be best off not trying to define marriage for outsiders when it becomes apparent that we don’t take our own definitions seriously). If our mission centers on carrying the name of Christ with us into the world (Acts 1:8), then there is hardly anything more definitive that we could do to “take God’s name in vain” than to be unfaithful to our spouses, since the God who’s name has become for us as personal as a kiss has revealed what it ultimately and essentially means to be humans in right relation to God with the scandalous analogy of Bride and Bridegroom.

    I have long tried to emphasize that holiness is the Church’s greatest witness since I believe that God is the sovereign author of salvation and thus we are not salesmen of salvation but echoes of the Savior’s ‘form’ and ‘function’, called to improvise the cross-bearing story in Jesus’ name to the same hostile world in its various costumed settings–and that means when the cross-bearing, guilt-sharing, grace-giving storyline is improvised accordingly for the glory of God, suddenly the life conformed to the Gospel-plot thereby becomes transparent to it. So holiness under the New Covenant is especially demonstrated as a certain social dynamic, which is reflected both when we walk in freedom from living in sin but also in freedom to forgive sin, that is, when we become gracious toward others who sin against God and us, just as God has been gracious with us with our sin against him, hence the Lord’s Prayer (see below). If we want another reality, we should be on the market for another lord.

    This pastor has now to deal with God, his own conscience, public shame, and the carnage in his own home. The responsibility of the Body is not the same as God’s, his conscience’s, the public’s or his family’s. Our only responsibility as a Christian community at this point follows from the Lord’s Prayer: (1) to persist in doing the daily work of the Christian in asking for our own forgiveness–perhaps for our own lust and facade of purity–rather than pointing out someone else’s need for forgiveness which amounts to nothing more than a misleading truism and results in nothing more a talking tomb–washed and white; (2) to extend forgiveness as the necessary corollary response to our daily(!) reception of God’s forgiveness, and thus to identify with this pastor’s fallenness, which amounts to nothing less than taking up our cross and following Jesus (which itself is a statement about identifying with the guilt of the world first, a principle of self-sacrifice second); and (3) to plead with God to keep us from indulging in the same evil which at some level our flesh and pride desire. And then (4) finally to recognize that the only condition to the unconditional grace of God is that we who have received his grace allow him to make us gracious. That begins, continues, and is perfected by us telling the truth about ourselves and the truth about God: I too am guilty but God’s grace is sufficient for me–and for you, and for least of these and the worst of those.

    “Give us this day our daily bread and forgiveness our [daily] trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. If you forgive others their trespasses your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father in heaven forgive you” (Mt. 6:11-15).

    Lastly, on a personal note, I guess I’m sensitive to this because of my own family history, and as a result I feel passionately that the role of the pastor is to lead the way in both holiness AND confession, so that the precedent is that we take sin seriously and grace even more seriously, because God’s grace is the only thing that IS more serious than our sin. But sin destroys relationships and God hates that. So for the sake of my witness and more selfishly for the sake of my family, whether I end up pastoring a church of 50 or 5,000, I’m going to continually set the precedent of telling the truth about God and the truth about myself. There are too many pastors who have to hide their temptations, and that almost inevitably leads to them eventually trying to hide their sins, which leads to this kind of crap that ends up in the headlines. If the Church wants a facade of perfection, then I’ll just roast coffee the rest of my life. The grace of my message comes with the sinfulness of its messenger.
    Just now · Edited · Like · 11

    Kevin Bobrow line of the day: “the only condition to the unconditional grace of God is that we who have received his grace allow him to make us gracious”. Amen!
    4 September at 15:30 · Unlike · 5

    Jonathan Hansen So good bro
    4 September at 20:17 · Like

    Dave Currie Embracing the truth and the implications of your words. Thanks son.
    Yesterday at 03:21 · Like

    Janice Pierce Spainhour Well said. Just cannot hit the “like” button. “… sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Gen 4:7 Satan has his strategy and he targets leaders and those with influence in the Kingdom. James says: “Each person is lured and entice by his own desire, then desire, when it is conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown…brings forth death. The old hymn, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling…..”take away my bent for sinning…” The only way to life a holy life is to remain in the Word, in the presence of God, in community with those journeying with us, being transparent as we go…especially the pastoral community. Expectations and fear of sharing can take you down. Thank you Jeremy for walking in truth and light. It is the greatest force against the enemy of our souls.
    Yesterday at 07:22 · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour Yes, holiness by proxy–that is the Gospel I unfortunately failed to hear at my seminary, which is particularly alarming since it is associated with the so-called holiness tradition. Perhaps therefore we shouldn’t be surprised that people are failing to hear it in the Church.
    Yesterday at 08:49 · Like

    Kevin Bobrow what do you mean “holiness by proxy”?
    Yesterday at 08:54 · Like

    Jeremy Spainhour Holiness is our “possession” only insofar as the Holy Spirit can be called our possession–it is in fact quite the converse. And we can only be described as holy insofar as we walk by the Spirit, that is, as we conform our lives to that rather demanding and invasive Alien life that stubbornly and consistently whispers “not your will” to any and every thought that endorses the gratification of the self at the expense or negligence of another. The process of “becoming” holy is the process of becoming something we are decidedly not and can never say be without reference to the the only One who is.

    “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ lives within me. And the life I live now I live by faith in the son of god, (and here’s the first principle) who loved me and have himself for me” (gal 2).

    In other words, anything holy I might BE is in fact entirely another Being altogether, who shares space with me as a gracious condescension of his own Being. And anything holy I might DO I do as an act of submission to a will not of my own. I can neither generate holiness within myself nor narrate a holy way of life for myself. This opens up a whole other conversation about the conflation in Western theology between religious and moral categories (thanks, Kant) but I’ve got a kid trying to throw Hotwheels in a batch of coffee beans…so I gotta run.
    Yesterday at 09:41 · Edited · Like

    Kevin Bobrow cool – we cannot possess holiness. We can only be holy when we are walking with Christ, allowing him to work in us. It’s not something we can attain or check off the list, and we have never arrived into a state of holiness, because we cease being holy the moment we are separate from Christ. So we can only “be” holy when we are “in proxy” to Christ, when our spirits are in sync with the Spirit. Otherwise we are just trying to label ourselves as holy like we would label a pastor as “clergy” – it is a name or category that has no bearing on what is really true about a person. Thank you – another helpful distinction for me and certainly one I struggle to live out. I am constantly (probably due to my background in ministry) struggling against seeing myself as a particular kind of person (holy, or different in some spiritual way than the “masses” around me), but this is always quite separate from what’s really going on in my soul. I see myself as set apart even when I’m quite far from God and a real relationship with him… God, have mercy.
    Yesterday at 09:43 · Unlike · 2

    Jeremy Spainhour So – holiness by proxy locates holiness in the One who makes holiness a possibility inasmuch as we abide in him and walk by his Spirit.
    Yesterday at 09:43 · Like

    Matt Allhands well said
    Yesterday at 18:53 · Like

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