What I'm Reading Today: Genesis 12-17
Once again this week there was a story that broke of a pastor's misdeeds. It wasn't just any pastor that was involved – the scandal happened to involve the pastor of the largest church in the state of Georgia! It seems that the individual had coerced three young men into sexual relationships.
Individuals have responded to the story in different ways since the story first broke. Some have pointed out the hypocrisy of the pastor since he spent years railing against "homosexuals" – all the while engaging in same-gender behavior himself. I can certainly understand those who are frustrated with the pastor's double-standard in this area. Others have used the situation to rail against Christianity all together - saying it's one more example of the old "say-one-thing, do-another approach" that marks some Christians.
I try to be a little more careful in my response to situations where a pillar of a community is exposed for being something less than what we would consider faithful.
Why is that?
I suppose it's because early in life I picked up on a theme that runs throughout the Scriptures as it pertains to the great leaders of our faith. That theme is that every great leader has moments in her or his life when they fail to live up to the fullness of their call. Take Abram/Abraham from today's reading, for instance. Here is the man that is identified today as the ancestor of not one but three of the world's greatest faith traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In the span of just five chapters, we are told this honorable man (1) lied to the Egyptians about the status of his relationship with Sarai to save his own bacon; (2) slept with a woman (Hagar) other than his wife (Sarai) in order to produce off-spring; and then (3) completely ignored an ugly situation when tension arose between Sarai and Hagar. The first two of those situations would get any leader on the front page of most newspapers these days.
In spite of these short comings, Abram/Abraham still went on to participate in remarkable things that redefined the course of human history.
"So what are you suggesting, Craig?" you might wonder. "Are you saying it was okay that the pastor in Georgia did what he did?"
Not at all. If the allegations are true, it was inappropriate for the pastor to use his power and position to coerce minors into inappropriate relationships. He should face the full consequences of his actions. I want to make that part very clear!
What I am saying instead has two parts. First, don't be too quick to gloat about other people's short comings. We all – including the greatest matriarchs and patriarchs of our faith! – have short comings. Second , don't be too quick to write yourself and your contributions to the world off because of your shortcomings. If God can use stubborn, fearful, willful people like Abram/Abraham, Sarai/Sarah, and Hagar to do amazing things – chances are that God can work through someone like me and you as well.
Hold on to those thoughts today as you negotiate your way through a world full of incendiary headlines and hypocrisy.
Til next time …