My husband and I left the US for Israel on May 21. In the span of the 10 days we’ve been here, I’ve been following a string of excruciating stories from the Evangelical world that have included the exposure of incest/abuse/coverup happening within America’s favorite Bill Gothard poster family, the Duggars; the tale of legalistic spiritual abuse of a woman who divorced her pedophile husband by the leadership of Village Church, pastored by Acts 29 head Matt Chandler (who did offer an apology this weekend for the clumsy way cases like these have been handled by the church in the past); husband and father of five, pastor Matt Mikela losing his job at his Michigan congregation after someone discovered he’d been caught trolling for sex on a gay hook-up site; and former congressman, Wheaton College grad Dennis Hastert being accused of siphoning funds to pay hush money for years to a former student with whom he had a sexual relationship.
These stories weren’t an aberration. Last week wasn’t a hiccup. Whether it is via recent Pew Research stats or the flow of blogs, books, and conferences describing the general decline in both numbers and influence of the church in society, it all adds up to a whole lot of subtraction, in part at least because the beauty of the love of Jesus has been obscured by sins of sex, power and money by too many of those at the top of org charts in local churches or denominations.
If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)
The word “little one” (mikros) refers to someone who is small in size, age, experience, or influence. In other words, exactly the kind of people Jesus sought. Though we often apply these words to children, really, we are “little ones” if we aren’t the top banana in a community. The last week and a half has been a painful reminder that some in power have fed their own insatiable appetites in the name of Jesus. Justice can seem excruciatingly slow for those of us who’ve been chewed up and spit out by lousy, selfish leaders.
In all of the bad news listed above – and the hundreds of stories like them that may never hit the headlines – I hear good news.
“…He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5)
Though this passage references the final judgement, it reflects God’s character to expose what is in the darkness. He is purity itself, holiness itself, light itself, justice itself. The exposure of some leaders’ sin should be an encouragement to little ones everywhere: God sees and knows at a level none of us can begin to imagine. He will have the final word on these matters, and that word contains the letters m-i-l-l-s-t-o-n-e in it. This should also inject the fear of the Lord into each one of us whether we’re Leaders or simply see ourselves as just another mikros, because each and every one of us influences others in some way.
I used to know a salt-o’-the-earth dude named Ernie who put it this way: “You can do it God’s way. Or you can do it God’s way.” I am praying for each of us who wears his name that we will choose the former, rather than being exposed via the latter.
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P.S. – We’re finishing up our 10 days in Israel tonight: Our trip began in Ashdod, where we enjoyed incredible hospitality in the home of some kind friends. We celebrated Shavuot/Pentecost with some from the Messianic community. My husband spent a couple of days in intense and productive board meetings on behalf of Caspari, and I had the opportunity to tour the Tower of David in the Old City for a second time with some guests, soak up the atmosphere on Ben Yehuda, visit and pray with old friends who are living in the region, pray at the Western Wall, search for a bookstore in East Jerusalem, and get really, really lost. We ended our stay with a couple of days in Haifa, where we visited Bet She’arim, ancient ruins with an astonishing 2nd-4th century A.D. cemetery, and Safed (Tzfat), a mountain town that is the world’s center for Kabbalah-style Judaism and home to a whole lot of hippie artists. This is my 7th trip to this complex and sacred land. Every time I visit, I leave a piece of my heart behind.
Or perhaps I find the pieces of my heart I didn’t even know I was missing.