A year ago, Mars Hill Pastor, Mark Driscoll, resigned over allegations ranging from misappropriation of funds to the verbal abuse of his staff and church members. Critics of his brash, confrontational approach felt justified.
A few months ago, Billy Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, resigned in an admission that he had an affair. Critics of his free Gospel felt justified.
We live in dangerous times. The danger is not merely that our leaders or heroes continue to fall and fail us – that has never been a surprise in Christendom. No, the dangerous times are that these failures cause critics to pat themselves on the back, and as a result, many drop their guard. Dropping one’s guard is an invitation to a knockout blow.
Focusing on other’s failures always lessens the personal vigilance needed to protect our own soul – you know, that whole speck and log business that Jesus talked about (Matthew 7:5). Simply, how we view these men’s failures will teach us more about us than them.
Pray that God would guard your heart from sin. Pray that prayer for your family. Pray that prayer for church leaders, whether they be your church’s or someone else’s. As 1 Timothy 2 commands us:
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior
Finally, let’s pray for the honor of Christ to be lifted up and restored, as in many people’s minds, our vigilance against cultural sin seems misguided when our own house is out of order. Lessons of truth and grace are hard right now, but they are the only lessons we had in the first place.
Sam and I rarely fought. Even as a kid, I don’t remember any face to face screaming matches with Sam. As adults, we were respectable, and we dealt with our few disagreements peaceably.
Except one time. I was probably thirty-five at the time.
We had a family member struggling with alcoholism. Sam and I disagreed about how we should approach that family member. I saw it as a Gospel issue, as in, “The Gospel teaches us to do this.” Sam saw it as a law issue, “We need to teach this lesson.”
I don’t cast it that way to say I was right and Sam was wrong. That was just the way we were approaching the situation, and looking back, I think we both had valid points.
But for the first time in our lives, we were barely speaking, and when we did, it was Mom saying, “Hey, don’t you want to speak to your father?” She would then hand the phone to Sam and force us to talk.
Well, I was off at my denomination’s General Assembly. This is when the teaching and ruling elders from across the country gather for worship, information, and some manner of business. Within my denomination is a pastor named, RC Sproul.
As Sam was doing research to interact with me over areas of theological disagreement in seminary, he began to read Dr. Sproul. Sproul made a huge impact on Sam, and in areas where I could not articulate certain theological positions well, Dr. Sproul could. In fact, any changes of conviction on Sam’s part were much more due to Sproul than to me.
So at General Assembly, I was walking around the vendor floor where a million books are sold. Standing in the middle of the walk way was Dr. Sproul. He was surrounded by about ten guys who were lapping up every word that he spoke. I took my place among the circle and waited. Eventually, the business of General Assembly renewed, and one by one, the sycophants all left.
Dr. Sproul turned to me as I was the last man standing.
Sproul has this amazingly gravel, smoke-tinged voice that helps give his wise words authorative weight. He realized that I had been standing for a long time and had said nothing.
So he asked, “Can I help you, young man?”
I told him that he could. I told him that my father, Dr. Thom Duncan, was an avid reader of his book and greatly enjoyed his writings. I then asked Dr. Sproul my favor.
“If I called my father, would you be willing to speak to him for a moment? It would mean a lot.”
He agreed, and I immediately called Sam on my cell phone. Surprised at my call, Sam asked if everything was okay. I said, “Yeah, everything is fine, but there is someone here who would like to speak to you.”
I handed the phone to Sproul, and he said, “Dr. Duncan, my name is RC Sproul. You must be really proud of your son here.” They spoke for maybe five minutes, and Dr. Sproul handed me back my phone.
When I returned to speaking with Sam, he had an excitement in his voice similar to a kid who got to meet their favorite football player. When I got home, we talked about the incident, and our tension was gone. We brought up the conversation about interacting with the sick family member, but this time, all of the tension was gone. We were able to speak in a way where care for the person was more important than winning the day.
Thanks, Dr. Sproul.
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