The words of the title still echo in my ears. I’d been called to my previous pastor’s office over the contents of my December 1st blog post, simply because a couple of people had forwarded the post to him. These individuals hadn’t understood fully what I meant in my post and were not, according to my pastor, seeking to accuse me of any sin.
So I had to go to meet with someone who didn’t have questions about my blog…to satisfy the curiosity of two people who did have questions…but who decided it was easier to pass the responsibility of just asking a few questions off to a “spiritual leader.” Aha. Just like Matthew 18. (sarcasm)
So in the course of the discussion, I told my pastor, “I want to feel another man close to me and sometimes I sin or at least want to sin in order to satisfy that craving.” He looked at me and said, “Why would you want to do that?” Having become a fairly emotionally-charged conversation by this point, I was crying and answered through my tears, “I get it, Pastor. Sin is dumb…but if the knowledge that sin is dumb was enough to keep me from it, then Christ died for no purpose!”
I received no reply.
At the end of the conversation, two things happened. One was that I was asked if I knew the gospel…I wasn’t told the gospel…I was asked if I knew it. By that point, I was too weary to insist that this man, who was God’s under-shepherd over me, preach the gospel to me. Instead, I told him, yes, I know it and proceeded to tell him the Good News.
The other thing that happened near/at the end of the conversation was that I was told that if I “screwed up” or sinned with another man while leading worship at this church that I would probably split the church in the process. The punchline of that statement? “Don’t screw up.”
Now, before I sound too angry about what was said, I will admit that this is exactly the sort of counsel I learned to give in 20+ years of relating to people at church. People have a law problem (ie, they don’t keep it) and so what they need is to be reminded of the seriousness of their offense…that’ll stave off temptation. Right?
Well…wrong, actually. It’s like trying to fight fire with gasoline. You can’t fix someone’s Law Problem by giving them more Law. Instead, the solution to the Law problem is The Gospel.
Had I been involved with one night stands or a long-term relationship with another man while at that church, my pastor may well have been right. But leaving me with that and a rather disjointed exhortation of the gospel from the conversation which, by the way, he made me proclaim, not him…this was not the way to handle this.
Instead, when someone is tempted or involved in grievous sin, we should love them enough to tell them the truth…that the church COULD split. After all, my problem is not with him saying that…it’s more than likely TRUE and I needed to hear that. My issue is that the Gospel made a cameo at the end instead of the problem being identified and the Gospel being applied to that problem!
Look at the way Paul deals with the Judaizers in Galatians. He lays a careful groundwork of the Gospel and then carefully exhorts his audience, both Christian and heretic, to repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Christ.
The bottom line: More law does not solve people’s law problem (namely, that they don’t keep it). The Gospel is THE solution to man’s law problem. Give them that instead.
Craig L. Adams said:
Wow. Is THIS one also going to get you in trouble? You’re right about that Law vs. Gospel thing.
Possibly. But I don’t attend that church anymore, so there won’t be a meeting about it.
“Don’t screw up” is NOT the Gospel, and as such, it is an incredibly miserable message to proclaim. Christ receives the prodigal, the harlot, the tax collector, and the thief. And Christ receives us. Christ IS the Good Samaritan who breaks with social convention to offer healing to those lying wounded and beaten on the side of the road. Christ IS the Divine Physician who brings healing to our souls and bodies. Christ IS the offering required to bring us to oneness with God that we may be one as He is one with the Father. Christ IS the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the lives of His sheep and searches for those who are lost.
Jeff S. said:
David, I so love you for your perspective on dealing with issues like this. Thank you for being you, for standing your ground when called to do so, and for considering the gospel uppermost.