I'm not one to be regularly provocative in my preaching, but this past Sunday I intentionally pushed a bit. When I do that, there's often benefit in following up with some mid-week thoughts. (If you weren't here, as always, you can catch up on the latest sermon by going to our website www.graceredeemer.com under Media, and downloading/streaming the latest sermon or by subscribing to the sermon podcast via the website and iTunes).
The sermon text from 2 Samuel 11 describes David's grievous sin - a combination of lust, adultery, deceit, and murder - against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah. My third point was labeled Leaders and Sin. I rattled off a handful of examples of sexual offenses which various people in positions of leadership have been accused of, all reported in the Bergen Record in the last several days. A shockingly diverse list involving a US Senator, policeman, school administrator, high school coach, and local pastor. Crazy stuff! But sadly, a part of the world in which we live.
The breach of trust committed by a leader is especially serious. Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Luke 12:48). James echoes this principle when he writes this, within a spiritual context: "We who teach will be judged more strictly." (James 3:1).
I pointed the focus on myself as a pastor, and set up this hypothetical scenario (Note: there really is no scandal here!): If I, or another pastor, ever cheated on his wife, I'm giving you instruction as to how to handle it. You should pray for reconciliation in his marriage and for repentance to lead to restored fellowship with God. And then you should immediately remove him from the pastorate, and not let him back into the pulpit ever again.
But what about Christian love and forgiveness and mercy? Ahh, that's where I wish I could preach for a 75 minutes straight and cover 2 Samuel 11 AND 12 at the same time. That 2nd chapter will come this Sunday and give us with a picture of forgiveness and restoration, to balance the stark picture of sin in chapter 11.
But my point/goal (some of which I briefly mentioned) was to address the specific context of 2 Samuel 11: the sexual sin of a leader. AND, to recognize that our world is rife with such sexual immorality among leaders. AND, to speak to the understandable cynicism about hypocrisy among Christians, especially leaders, when the "Do as I say, not as I do" reality so often follows prominent spiritual leaders. My message? That is NOT okay. That should NOT be tolerated, and if such a thing were to ever happen here, our response should be firm. Wise, firm consequences AND deep Gospel-driven love/forgiveness are not mutually exclusive.
Yes, you should care for the pastor and his family. No, you shouldn't ostracize him/them. Yes, you should ensure that there is genuine repentance and restoration pursued. No, you should not 'judge' him as a worthless scumbag. Yes, you should work towards forgiving him yourself, and if you can't, the reason is likely rooted in your self-righteousness, and in your lack of understanding of how deeply sinful you are. He is a sinner, like all others. But his failure is unique: the congregation (and perhaps to some extent the community) looks to him as a spiritual leader/mentor/model. And he has let them down. Often a pastor's immorality causes the flock to scatter - "If I can't trust my pastor, who can I trust? Can I ever trust a spiritual leader ever again?" Simply put, a leader's sin causes far wider devastation than a non-leader's sin.
Come back Sunday to hear what Scripture has to say about David's sin. That's far more important than any thoughts I could share...
Grace to you,