History can teach us if we let it! (Captain obvious)

Although I am a Christian, with scripture and the laws of God holding a prominent place in my heart and life, you don’t actually have to be a believer in order to make certain choices given our extensive knowledge of history – unless of course you are intent on repeating it which seems to be the status quo most of the time.

Although some may not view Leviticus as a historical book I am going to “enter into evidence” Leviticus 18 for your thoughtful consideration for the purpose of this blog.  In that chapter God indicates actions which have caused judgment to fall on all the former inhabitants of the lands, which in this particular case refers to the land to be given to the descendants of Abraham.

The actions identified in Leviticus are of two specific categories.  One is sexual activities ranging from adultery and incest to homosexuality and beastiality and the second is killing or burning the innocents (babies) which in that day were an offering to the god Molech.

At that point in Leviticus we have a minimum of 1500 to 2000 years of recorded history to verify that no people group survived who began to practice these types of activities.  And now here we are with an additional 3500 years of history to seemingly confirm that any country which was given over to sexual or social activities which did not align with the more conservative Judeo/Christian ethics (and again although I am referencing religion I am doing so in regards to recorded history) have not survived long historically.

I recognize and understand to some extent the laws of physics such as gravity, Newton’s law of motion and others.  But what if what we have seen in history is another level of laws for the physical earth which were also set in place from the beginning which cannot be ignored any more than you could ignore gravity regardless of whether you believe it or not.  In Leviticus God refers to the land “vomiting out” people groups who participate in the practices listed earlier as if the actual physical land may have some involuntary gag reflex that plays a role in cleansing itself of people who violate these laws.  And He promises the same judgment for the Israelites if they participate likewise.  And our recorded history really does seem to confirm this to be the case.

gravity

So why should any country or people group today expect that they have somehow learned the secret of immunity to the moral laws of the universe which seem to be just as unbreakable even if somewhat less predictable in the timing or means of execution (double entendre).

So whatever you want to call it, free sex, choice, abortion, “love wins”, MYOB, equal rights, gay or women’s rights; history and the laws of the universe will not be changed or persuaded by some progressive school of thought.  I find it especially ironic that many progressives call it “being on the right side of history” to give in and practice such activities.  Have no doubt, history (and God) will not be mocked.

Restoring the fallen!?

I, more than most, understand and appreciate the forgiveness of the Lord and the tremendous grace that has been poured out in my direction.  I am a sinner saved by grace and a repeat offender who has experienced the unmerited gift of forgiveness in my life where I continue to falter on the road to sanctification.

I also understand that scripture gives us standards and expectations for spiritual roles in the church.  The roles of elder and deacon have similar high standards and it would follow that these requirements, if not even higher ones, would be true for any role of shepherd or pastor as well.

There have been seasons in my life when I would not have met the minimum requirements for elder/deacon as not all my children were following the Lord.  That did not affect my salvation, but I believe it did disqualify me for certain roles in the church.  I also believe that sins which occurred prior to a salvation experience, in some cases, should not count as disqualifiers.  For example if someone had committed adultery or been divorced prior to salvation they might still aspire to the role of elder or deacon.  But let’s be clear, I do not see someone’s current character as some magic formula that guarantees Godly character in the future based on their past “performance”, but there is a reason such high standards were given as a threshold for leadership in the church.

And it is for good reason those highest standards have been set.  You need look no further than the highest office in our land, the presidency, to see how a lack of moral character there affects and changes the moral landscape for millions in the upcoming generations.  How much more influential would the person in the role of elder, deacon or pastor be in modeling character, or the lack thereof, for you and your children.

So if I consider a few of the qualifications in 1 Tim. 3:  vs12 “husband of one wife” (which I interpret to be only one ever and not one at a time), vs11 “trustworthy in every way”, vs13 “excellent reputation”.  I would not consider someone who has had an affair or committed adultery as fulfilling those requirements. And it was with that interpretation of scripture I read with quite some confusion recently an article entitled “The Elephant in the Church”.  It was an article about a conference attended by over 50 pastors, among them Ed Gungor, Ted Haggard, Ruth Graham and others who have similar stories of moral failings in their marriages while holding church leadership positions.  The main point of the article covered the complaining as to how strict or limited the pathway to restoration was for them.  And by restoration, they meant restoration to the same position of leadership they held before adultery and affairs.  Keep in mind, many of these 50 pastors rejected the discipline their church elders gave them and went off and did their own thing anyway which for most resulted in significant monetary windfalls – and they are the ones complaining???  It would be like a bunch of college students who chose to get some degree that doesn’t serve them well in the real world and then sitting around complaining about having to pay the price of their burdensome school debt.

I want to be crystal clear here.  I am an absolute believer in full forgiveness and restoration of all sinners.  But my understanding of that restoration is a spiritual position in Christ and not necessarily restoration to some physical position of leadership at the top levels in the church.  Where there is full forgiveness for sin, there are also consequences for sin. And for a pastor/elder/deacon to betray the trust put in them by a congregation by choosing some significant moral sin, I believe scripture is clear that one of those consequences is a disqualification to hold those positions in the church.  Is it so radical that I want the upcoming generations to walk in such an awareness of the Holiness of God that they would have the Holy Spirit whispering in their ear (and if need be yelling) “there are consequences for sin”.

I look at it like this.  Say you are a trusted public bus driver and you choose to get drunk and are involved in a serious accident. It doesn’t mean you are any less of a person, but you should NEVER again be allowed to hold that trusted position of public bus driver.  It sends a terribly wrong message to other drivers not to mention the potential danger it would mean for those in your care.  I see significant moral failing in the highest positions of leadership in the church the same way.  It doesn’t mean you can’t be a SS teacher, missionary or evangelist.  But you have forfeited that most honored role because of the huge mixed message it sends to everyone that holiness and excellent moral character is “only mostly” important.

Are we that lacking of people with stellar moral character to fill these crucial roles?  Do we really want to send the message to our young people that character in leadership in the church is viewed the same way as in the secular society i.e. “wink wink, nod nod”?  In reference to the article mentioned above, I basically agree with main premise of the entire article and the need for the church to learn how to be advocates for each other in the restoration process.  But that agreement stops short of the part where restoration includes regaining the pastoral/elder leadership role once held.  The article speaks about the fear they experienced surrounding the exposing of sin.  Doesn’t this put the focus all on them and the struggles they are having?  I suggest the removal of the adulterer from the pulpit places the focus on the fear of God, where it should and creates an atmosphere of sobriety for the next person who might aspire to one of the highest offices in the church of Jesus Christ.

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/elephant-church