Sunday in church one of my pastors used this video clip to illustrate a point. I was particularly struck by it. Watch the clip and then read why.
I was a bit discouraged Sunday as I went to church. Not a big deal but there were a couple things weighing on my heart.
First, I hate to watch people be offered truth and deliberately turn away from it. On one of the threads actively progressing on this blog right now, a church is tearing apart. I went to bed Saturday night and God got me back up to go tell them something. However, it was clearly and coldly ignored. Only one person “heard” it. It’s hard to see that happen. Not because it is a personal rejection – but because I know it was a rejection of what God said, and they don’t realize that. But I can’t make people’s choices for them.
There is also another upcoming clergy sex abuse case we’ve been watching, hoping this time it will actually make it to trial. It is the case of Chester Mulligan, which is scheduled for trial in September. He was charged in 2004 and his attorney has successfully played court dodge-ball for the past four years, leaving Mulligan’s alleged victim hanging in the breeze with her life on hold. I have to walk the careful line of what can legally be said. In most of these situations I don’t know innocence or guilt, but in this one I do. And it is very difficult to sit still and watch.
I believe what I wrote in the comments to my post is true – an innocent man does not need to hide from a courtroom and intimidate his followers into silence, or censor their input for fear they may see something negative about him. Those actions are facts that are openly visible for anyone who knows him to see and are not subject to my opinion. They do not look to me like the actions of an innocent person – my opinion here. An innocent man does not need protecting. A guilty man does not need protecting. God does not need protecting. So why the deep, dark secrets?
I am also aware that on the other “end” of this computer there are real people facing extremely serious situations. I get private e-mail from some. For those, all alone, this is worth everything.
Anyway, back to my video clip. I think anyone who deals with issues of abuse and Christianity gets discouraged from time to time. Even if you know beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt that God has called you to walk in this path, some days it seems like an impossible task. Like the kids in the video. Yeah, maybe I can make it to the 10 yard line. Ok, maybe with just us guys, I could get to the 20 yard line. With nobody on my back, to the 50. But, have you seen the other team?
And that’s just it. Have you seen the other team? We want to think the other team is dressed in red and black and carries pitch forks. But they don’t! The other team is often called “pastor,” has a seminary degree, or has the same last name as I do. The enemy isn’t at the gates; the enemy is within the gates! Satan is a deceiver, and the very best deception of all is to infiltrate the good guys and pose as an angel of light.
Sunday afternoon I had to write a hard e-mail. For the very first time, I was profoundly grateful God had me walk the path He did when I had to walk out of my marriage against the strong opinions of my pastors. God told me then I had a choice; and, yes, I later doubted myself. I could go alone with just me and God (that’s what it felt like anyway and that is certain what the choice was). Or I could put my pastors’ words above God, which would be idolatry, and I could stay in my marriage and I could die from cancer.
When I wrote those words in my e-mail I cried. Because I knew why God let me walk that way alone three years ago. Because sometime later someone else would be in the same place and some other pastor would give them the same wrong advice. Some other day, some other woman’s life would literally be on the line. And it would matter than much.
Yes, sometimes I feel like Brock carrying 160 lbs on his back blindfolded 100 yards down the field by himself. Some days I’m mad because there are pastors and church leaders and denominational leaders out there piously sending people to literal death sentences at the hands of an abuser or to metaphorical life sentences from sex abuse because they’d rather either deliberately or unknowingly hold hands with the enemy. I love my pastors dearly. They fall into the unknowingly camp. They are precious (and to give credit where due, one of my pastors would not have an abused woman stay under the same roof with an abuser; just either not divorce him or never remarry). Other pastors are not innocent. They know better but they are vested in their wickedness because it is to their advantage, both financially and positionally, to keep their opinions.
But God’s eyes are on the broken ones Jesus came to save in their today’s as well as their eternal tomorrow’s. Someone has to be the ones who will carry them to the finish line. And if the so-called leaders won’t then who will? It will have to be those of us who have walked there, had those wounds, witnessed Jesus’ healing, and know the path out.
Jesus’ model of ministry wasn’t in preparing sermons, attending business meetings, planning new buildings, deciding on the Sunday School curriculum for spring quarter or what program to do for Christmas. He just lived in the trenches, on the way, side-by-side, in the dirt with hurting people, where they were, in their lives, where they hurt. He got his feet dirty, His clothes sweaty, His hands soiled – every day. He cried. He cared and He lived it 100%, every day. He didn’t go to the office every day and preach about it on Sunday, hallelujah.
He washed feet. And that’s what He’s called me to do; us to do. If those feet are wounded, we carry them on our backs, like Brock. And if the people who wear the name “minister” don’t do ministry, so what? We are all called to minister. It’s not in a label and it never was.