Trinity Church of Portland, OR just released word yesterday that senior pastor, Art Azurdia, has been removed from his role due to sexual misconduct. Like many of the other recent revelations of nefarious pastoral affairs – Art’s stings a bit. They all sting a bit. I’m just tired. I’m tired of seeing pastor after pastor fall due to sexual misconduct, and Art Azudia is no exception to that. I am weary of seeing those charged with upholding simple qualifications inevitably bow down to the prevailing expression of a sexually impotent culture.
I grieve because of the damage this does to the church – especially to the local church these men have pastored. I grieve for Art Azurdia, I truly do. I sympathize simply because I am on the road, Lord willing, to pastoral ministry. I can’t imagine any pastor hopes for the adulterous, career-ending affair. Few men set out to be those whom are old and live with this specific type of regret. Yet we must think beyond to the devastation such an act brings to the local church Art Azurdia pastored.
Think of what message it sends to newly married couples in Art’s church. Their pastor, who led them through marital counseling and cautioned them to sobriety and a high view of the vows they were about to make, didn’t take those vows as seriously. Do they have hope in escaping an extramarital affair? Think of what message that sends to the unmarried. Their pastor, who urged them toward faithfulness and sexual purity, could not uphold his own conviction even with the benefits of a marriage. Do they have hope of remaining pure? That stings. It should sting.
Westerners tend to look at pastoral falls and make it all about the fallen pastor. In one sense, how could we not? Yet scarcely does one think of the ripple effect such things have. Indeed, his fellow elders now must walk in the process of bringing healing to the damage which Art Azurdia brought. I am genuinely hopeful he will undergo the proper process of restoration by seeking repentance in humility. Indeed, the message of repentance Art Azurdia preached on Sundays is fully applicable to him – and I pray the gospel’s balm will ease his soul in knowing the extent of Christ’s forgiveness.
For us though, these are always times of reflection. We ought to see the trend of sexual immorality amongst ministers of the gospel as it is: entirely ruinous. Yet such a time also calls for introspection. Who among you are clean from immorality? Who among you do not take the harlot in with your eyes, even though you should be as Job who said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” The married among us ought to be even more resolute. As Solomon says, “Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth!”
The pit of the harlot ensnares the foolish. It is the brute of a man who is led by his nether regions. We know this. We know this. The whole world knows this. It is not a bit shocking to any sensible person to understand the pitfalls of adultery, especially those who have a keen eye upon the pastoral qualifications. To what then do we owe this fruit? Relativism.
Surely, it could be argued we are sexual anarchists (an argument I find quite compelling in numerous ways). Yet the root of said anarchy finds origin in relativism. It is the lax principles being applied to our entertainment choices, letting sidelong glances go unchecked, perusing through pornography websites like a child in a candy shop – all the while the conscience is deadened and the inevitable road to adultery has long been traveled. Quite simply, it is that slow capitulation of unequivocal, absolute truths regarding sexual virtue. It is moving from matters of black and white to gray – and it produces what C.S. Lewis aptly called “men without chests.”
Lewis argued that no justification of virtue alone will enable a man to be virtuous. No, without trained emotion, the intellect shan’t rule over one’s animalistic instincts. The man who only ascends to the truth that sexual immorality is ruinous will not stand. No. Man must feel it is his bones. He must be utterly convinced that a gentleman, especially one in Christ, does not permit himself to be ruled by his brute instincts. He is master over his flesh and he will not permit it to reign, especially when Christ has freed him from such a damnable bondage as this.
A “chest” produces that same conviction which fiercely bellows, “YOU DO NOT HIT A WOMAN!” It enables men to stand in the gap and fight – to get pummeled even, for the sake of protecting the weak and vulnerable. It is the wondrously beautiful harmony of reason and viscera. The man “with chest” is the man whose heart is strongly rooted in the truth of God, and in such a manner that his baser instincts are subjected to his authority. Put in a simpler manner: he is the man bearing steeled resolution in moral fortitude with a pure heart and unwavering loyalty to Christ.
I am not saying Art Azurdia is necessarily by implication, a man without a “chest.” I am saying that he, among these other fallen pastors, is the product of a world with men lacking “chests.” It is particularly maddening to see a world of Christians who simply will not wholeheartedly embrace a biblical worldview of sex. No Christian is free to indulge in sexual proclivities of any sort, yet few sins find such excuse in the church today.
Every single person in Christ is bound by the imperative to flee from sexual immorality, indeed, even every type of sensuality and impurity. This is not a particularly hard qualification to meet. It is not even a particularly hard command for the general laity to obey and put into practice in every sphere of life – yet Christians a plenty buy into the practice of this world with respect to everyday choices on what is sexually appropriate.
I find it synonymous with the plea of my son when called to obedience on simple issues. He cries, “It’s hard!” But it isn’t hard to stop jumping on the couch. Rather, it’s quite easy to jump elsewhere – there’s a whole world made for jumping. It’s appealing to jump where you’ve been forbidden to jump though, and while his intellect has made the connection that it is wrong to jump on the couch, his instinct rules. Why? He is lad – one who has had little time to develop the fortitude and self-control indicative of heartfelt virtue.
It is not that my son needs more self-sacrifice, determination, creative outlets, or progress. He needs chutzpah, especially in a culture that demands virtue while removing the “chests” of adolescent boys. You can’t have self-sacrifice, determination, progress, or true, masculine creativity without a well-formed “chest.” In other words, it is a sincere, yet simple faith that produces men of conviction. It is knowing, earnestly knowing, that there’s a whole world of sexual expression to delight in found in the wife of your youth.
There’s an entirely wonderful world of God’s good provisions to enjoy – an entirely inexpressible and inexhaustible measure of enjoyment to be had. However, in a manner of borrowing yet another sentiment from Lewis, we are content with making mud pies in the slum. It isn’t hard to avoid the harlot. It isn’t all that hard to make the necessary “sacrifices” when you truly believe they are poisonous rot to your soul, and God demands more of you than this. Yet ascent to this fact is not enough. No. You must feel in it the fullness of your being. It must resonate in your chest if it is to last.