The past few days I have wept for my home church. Reading letters, Facebook posts, texts, and hearing all the division that is happening despite my last post. I started to ask myself how there could be a winner in this situation since people are taking sides. Logically one side is right and one side is wrong. But our hearts aren’t logical. Both sides will lose tremendously and both sides are wrong…and right.
One side is placing loyalty and friendship as a priority to a staff, pastor, and family that has shown them love, taught them scripture, been used by God for good, and shown them truth about themselves they may not have seen before. Their side believes when a man of moral character says he is innocent that is all the proof they need. It feels good to stand united with him in the face of this trial. They surround him with love and fight for his rights, they fight for what he asks them to because they love so deeply. They are appalled that anyone could doubt him and make up stories about him or wish his demise. They love him fiercely and we should all be so lucky to have people like this as friends. Being told they are following a man blindly is insulting. In their eyes there is nothing blind about true friendship and devotion to a man who has served them well for years and who has demonstrated a courageous heart for God. He is loved by God, anointed to lead them, and the devil wants nothing more than to bring him down. They are sad, hurt, and angry on his behalf. They pray hard for him.
The other side hurts as well. They realize their path is creating a divide that only a miracle could heal. They also love this man, this staff that has shown them grace and friendship. But this side is recognizing their own hearts are deceitful and capable of sin. They see that sin can overtake anyone of them and no one but Jesus himself walked this earth free from its bondage. Friends of this pastor have heard evidence against him that has torn them from the inside out because they have heard the sin named and described. It is sin that pains them and drives them to seek repentance for their friend. The wages of sin is death and their devotion to their friend pushes them to deal with the sin at hand. Truth and sin weigh heavy on their hearts. People around them have put their trust in these friends. They also love loyalty and see when friends confront sin it hurts them so much there must be a reason to take the pain head on. There must be such proof that they would take such a difficult stance against a friend.
So, you choose to either follow your friend and believe what he says is truth that he is innocent and being drug through the mud or you stand with his friends who have heard evidence of sin and want to it weed out so he can stand stronger as a man of God. A part of me pulls to both sides. The idea of allowing myself to believe the pastor who taught me so much, who oversaw my marriage, and who loves his wife whom I call my own spiritual mother, to believe he is capable of a sin worth a lawsuit is impossible. A war wages in my own heart for him and his family and for his staff. But I know what it is like to be human, to fall short of the glory of God. I know the devil wants to take down pastors and will work for years to achieve it. A very quiet part of me knows I am capable of the same terrible sins with much less of a fight. And to hear that some of this man’s dearest friends have wept more than I could imagine solidifies they recognize the possibility too, but they were subject to hearing it.
It is hard for me to imagine hearing evidence of my best friend doing something terrible. To hear the sin in action, to witness it myself. How would I react? What would my heart feel? Would I deny what I heard? I would cry out to God. Pound my fists against His chest in anguish as He put His arms around me. I would question so much.
It is also hard for me to imagine being told by my pastor that he is innocent and not believing him. Questioning him would throw all he had done for my soul out the window. All the weeks he dedicate to teaching me about a loving God who yearns to be close to me. It would be a slap in the face of him and his family to doubt him.
So who wins here? A church divided looks like a win for the devil. A new church plant built on pain and betrayal seems like a shaky foundation. A church with no pastor seems lost.
Then is occurred to me, in the end Jesus wins. Period. Jesus has already defeated death and satan. It is written, it is done, it is finished. Our sins have been sacrificed for through Jesus blood. There is nothing left for us to do but put our trust, faith, devotion, and love in Jesus. He is the only one who cannot lie, cannot sin, and has the best for us in mind. His plans are perfect and following Him will never lead us astray. So in all of this mess Jesus still wins. Seek Him.
So I step back. I kneel and begin to pray. I pray for truth, ultimate truth to be revealed. Truth that can’t be denied. I pray for hearts to be willing to hear and accept this truth. I pray the only filter that we strain this truth through would be the Holy Spirit within us. And I pray against Satan and sin. Against my own flesh and selfish prejudices. Against my own hurt and doubt. But mostly I pray that Jesus would be glorified in some way through all of this. That our human nature has not blemished His good name. That because of this situation people would turn to a closer relationship with Jesus, the only friend who won’t let us down.