In The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, Gimli said to Elrond, “Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”
Well, as much as I hate to admit it, that statement depicts how too many in evangelical leadership have handled their ministerial brothers when they’ve faced a darkened time in their lives. I shouldn’t paint with such a broad brush, I know; however, more often than not, this is what I’ve witnessed throughout the years in counseling pastors and missionaries from various denominations.
As a licensed marriage therapist and former pastor, I have seen more clergy run away from their denominational leaders than run to them. Many pastors have a real doubt that they will be lead home safely through their struggle when it comes to confessing a sin to their leaders.
Our Human Condition
I love how the Word paints Paul’s human frustration for us in Romans 7 (The Message). “Yes. I’m full of myself … What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.”
Yeah, well I wonder what those things were. The apostle’s honest word picture of what he goes through on a daily basis, trying to balance his faith with his vices, should speak loudly to every believer as we attempt to do the same.
The problem is too many in evangelical leadership are either in psychosomatic denial of their vices, or their legalistic learned behavior won’t allow them to acknowledge that they have any.
I’ve had the honor for several years of counseling pastors/missionaries as well as their overseers. On both accounts, there had come, as Saint John of the Cross said, their “Dark Night of the Soul.” This is a time of great pain in their lives that often threw them and their families into emotional and spiritual crisis.
What a sad reality to hear from many of these struggling saints that they didn’t feel safe in turning to their denominational leaders for help during these times. It’s not that they were trying to dismiss their sin; they just didn’t feel that they would be dealt with through compassion and grace as much as they would legalism and the law — the familiar “evangelical style” of ministerial discipline for credential holders.
It’s been more like France in the 1700’s: “Off with their heads!”
Jesus understood our human condition, as the writer of Hebrews tells us in Chapter Four: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.”
I think we need to see something here, because if not, then the bar will be so high that none of us will ever be able to reach it. We put great expectations on our faith, while allowing little to no tolerance for our humanity.
We need to wrap our minds around the fact that we have both.
We’re both intense lovers of Christ and the truth of His Word, as well as genetic recipients of the greatest catastrophic human meltdown in history … the fall of man! Acknowledging our human condition isn’t going light on our sin, it’s having confidence in His agape that when we do sin, we’re not disqualified.