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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Pastors are NOT GOD - just sinners saved by Grace.

Pastors are NOT God. I’ll repeat that – your pastor is NOT God. Your pastor is NOT Jesus Christ. Your pastor is NOT the Holy Spirit. Your pastor is NOT even more special to GOD than you are. They are simply men and women like you and I, saved only by GOD’s grace, standing only by GOD’s grace.

Two abuse stories have leapt out at me over the last year. Eddie Long in America and Albert Odulele in the UK. Both men were accused of inappropriate sexual contact with young men in their congregation. Odulele was jailed for 8 months while Eddie Long settled out of court with his four accusers. Eddie's Long's wife has just filed for divorce.

As a Christian, what should my reaction be when I hear these and other horrible stories? Should I leave the Church and conclude Christianity is NOT real? Should I rally around and blindly support the pastor? Or should I raise my voice shrilly to condemn the pastor?

Hmmmm, how about doing it the Biblical way. What does GOD command that we do? CATEGORICALLY CONDEMN THE SIN WHILE PRAYING THE ONE WHO HAS DONE IT COMES TO REPENTANCE.

GOD does not ask us to support sin – whether committed by the Pastor or the lowliest bench warmer. HE does NOT expect that we will make excuses for ‘PASTOR’ and say he was under stress, seduced, provoked etc or all the other silly reasons people come up with. He does NOT expect us to CONDEMN or blame the raped victims, HE does NOT expect us to talk about ALL the good the pastor has done and how he/she should not be judged harshly. 

GOD definitely does not expect us to quote those too-often misquoted verses ‘JUDGE NOT’ ‘Touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm’ or ‘Who judges another man’s servant.’

I’ll quickly run over what the biblical viewpoint: Paul tell the Corinthian Church to judge sin in their midst. The verse ‘Touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm’ actually refers to ALL of Israel – so for today, that verse would refer to all the Church or the ENTIRE body of Christ. Paul judged and told Peter off publicly when he realised Peter was wrong. Nathan judged David’s sin and told off the anointed King of GOD.

What GOD says is, sin is ALWAYS wrong and it is NEVER right.  Sin should NEVER be excused or glossed over. We are meant to ‘judge’ sin in our lives and the lives of other believers and then flee to Jesus to repent. We are meant to pray for our brethren if we see them caught up in a sinful lifestyle and to then speak to them in love, so they can repent and their souls can be saved.

So how does anyone go about that? You hear of a brother or sister committing adultery? What do you do? Thank GOD that JESUS shows us what HE does in the story of the woman caught committing adultery. Adultery was punishable by stoning under the law. Her accusers brought her to JESUS to trap Him. His words to them were: ‘He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone’. OKAY NOW! After they slunk away, His words to the shivering sinner: “Woman, where are thy accusers? Neither do I condemn you. GO AND SIN NO MORE.”  He did NOT condemn her, He did NOT even ask her why/what/where – He forgave her and told her to turn her back on sin. Suddenly a sinner was forgiven and restored. That is ‘hating the sin and loving the sinner.’

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I will admit that when I first heard about Odulele and Long, as the mother of a son, I picked up my batch of stones, washed and polished them nicely and was about to start flinging them at their heads – when I heard Jesus say – “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.

Now my stones dropped to the floor as I examined my own life.  No, I have NOT raped anyone NOR abused kids  – however Jesus said something once – “He who looks at a woman lustfully in his heart has committed adultery.”

I was sunk right there! While physically I lead a celibate life (albeit a difficult celibacy), I have committed the sin of lookery/thinkery/dwell uponry/and imaginatively.  Now I dunno about you married Christians, but for us unmarried Christians, most of my brothers & sisters will agree that staying celibate is one of the hardest commands to follow.

So now y’all can see why my stones dropped to the ground. ‘Thou shalt not commit fornication/adultery’. ‘Thou shalt not covet someone else's property.'

Neither Long nor Odulele's sins came about in one day. God would have been warning them for a very long time – no rape starts with just pouncing on the victim.  Sin begins with a stray thought, then a longer thought, a sneaky look at porn, a dwelling on lustful images, a reflecting and deep thinking of things you can share with no-one. Sin grows. It mushrooms. It corrupts and destroys. It warps character. It leaves death in its wake until finally one day sin becomes master of the person and a man finds himself abusing a child.

I do not forget the many victims of these and other sexual abuse stories. My heart bleeds for them. I pray God comforts them and heals them of this great betrayal by someone they trusted. For anyone abused, there is only one answer, JESUS. Only HE can heal the deep pain, scars, bitterness, mistrust, nightmares, left by the experience. RUN TO JESUS and receive life-long healing.

For anyone caught in the grip of sin, there is only one answer. JESUS. HE died on the cross for every single sin ever committed, past/present/future. RUN, FLEE to HIM quickly before sin overpowers you and becomes master and you become slave. GOD forgives freely because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.

No matter how bad you think things are, remember JESUS says – “Neither do I condemn you. NOW GO AND SIN NO MORE.”

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