Ponderings for November 8 2019

It happened again. Another Christian leader falls morally, like so many snowflakes in the winter. This time it was John Crist. You probably know of him, the famous and poignant comedian beloved by so many Christ-followers and churches. Trinity recently showed a very humorous video of his on prayer. Crist was guilty of sexual misconduct and harassment and impropriety against at least seven women.
 
Add him to the ever-growing roster of Christian leaders and pastors who have succumbed to the powerful temptation of sexual immorality.
 
No—that sentence is incomplete, not correct. Even a copout.
 
For by saying the Crists and Hybels and Tchividjians and Swaggarts (and King Davids) have simply succumbed to the challenges of sexual temptation makes them the victims of their sordid story when instead they are the perpetrators, the power brokers of these all-too-common episodes. As spiritual leaders and men in the spotlight who are looked up to, they bear the culpability of not only sexual misconduct but also of abuse of power. The women in all of these stories are the victims, the ones without the power.
 
When leadership and “fame” are in play, we are not talking “ordinary” adultery and sexual misadventures; we are in the arena of power with assault and abuse as key components. The story of King David and Bathsheba is the clear biblical example here (see 2 Samuel 11 and 12). David, the powerful king, sees Bathsheba bathing, wants her, summons a servant to retrieve her, “lays with her,” has her husband killed, and marries her. David used his power to take what he wanted. Bathsheba had no choice. The narrator purposely renders her silent. This was her king; she couldn’t refuse. This is no story of an extramarital affair—this is sexual assault and abuse of power. And to prove this point, Nathan, the prophet, when coming to confront the king of his sin, tells him a story not about sexual infidelity but about the abuse of power between a rich man and a poor man. God tells this tragic story because his anointed servant soiled the power that he had been given to lead God’s people.  And David practically brought down a nation in doing so.
 
The Christian Church and American Evangelicalism is also in peril today, not simply because of rampant sexual immorality at the top but because of the unchecked abuse of power that its leaders keep committing over and over again. And we are seeing this power abuse now outside the sexual realm in pastor-leaders such as James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll bullying their staff and leaders and abusing their power. And when they are called to account, they ignore their spiritual elders, dig in their heels, and then take their proverbial balls elsewhere to do it all over again. What a sham. This must not be. But unfortunately, it is. And it is not infrequent.
 
The prophet Nathan shows us the way. He holds the leader accountable. The king had all the power, all the money, all the fame. Nathan had only his character and a word from God. “You are the man,” he told his king. The behavior of the powerful one is wrong and must be held to account. And Nathan stands with and defends the powerless as Bathsheba’s voice and defender. As injustice occurs, the way of God is to empower the victim.
 
These contemporary stories hit a nerve with me not only as a pastor and Christian leader, but also, as a mega-church pastor and radio “celebrity,” I have not infrequently rubbed shoulders with men displaying such uncouthness and abuse of power. This culture is so contrary to the right way of the Church and especially of the Lord, who called us to and models humility over power.
 
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
 
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who,
existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be exploited.
Instead he emptied himself
by assuming the form of a servant,
taking on the likeness of humanity.
And when he had come as a man,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
in heaven and on earth and under the earth—
and every tongue will confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father