"What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?"

This blog has been moved to www.fallenpastor.com.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Forgiveness And Frustration

I had an interesting conversation today with someone who had visited Angel Falls Baptist Church before once or twice and knows a lot of people there. She also knows Cynthia and I well.

We had a great talk about what "could have happened".

It was all hypothetical. By the way, I hate hypothetical. I could toss hypothetical out the door the second it gets birthed. But we talked about it anyway.

Know why I hate hypothetical? Because it didn't happen. It's not reality. Sure, it could have happened, but it didn't. Deal with reality. Sure, I could have stayed with Angelica, but I didn't. Sure, I could have resisted temptation, but I didn't. I could have seen a real marriage counselor, but I didn't. Sure, I could have healed the eight years of marriage problems that we had, but I didn't. Hypothetical issues and problems are stupid. That's why I can't watch the History Channel. That's why I can't watch programs where they ask, "What if this would have happened." Who cares? It didn't happen. Deal with it. We live with reality.

Anyway, I did deal with hypotheticals tonight. And I did so with grace.

This person who visited Angel Falls asked me several questions had some real points that made some sense to me.

Cynthia could have run off with a plumber or an electrician or a lawyer after she kicked Barry out of the house after he had been unfaithful to her. You know what? The people of Angel Falls probably would have welcomed her back with opened arms after that. They would have understood her plight and seen that he was unfaithful and was being an idiot. They would have seen that he was a moron and was a terrible husband.

But no.

She slept with the pastor.

She was unfaithful with Angelica's husband. The pastor's wife. That was inexcusable. That, to Southern Baptist folk, is the unforgivable sin.

After she did that, she was shunned.

I received the worst of it and I planned it that way. I received their hatred. I wanted it that way. I didn't want her to get it. I wanted all the anger and hatred of the church to be pointed toward me and not toward her. They texted me, Facebooked me, emailed me and Lord knows what else they did to me. I got it all.

She got a bit. What she got was a few texts that asked her to repent of her adultery. That was it.

Where was the forgiveness? If she had committed adultery with the local plumber she would have been welcomed back into the congregation. But no, she had committed adultery with the pastor, she was shunned.

The problem this person I was talking with came to a head because we were talking about Cythia's daugher, Lydia. She had been invited to a local Vacation Bible School - not at Angel Falls Baptist, but somewhere else. She had already been told by the head deacon, Phillip Townsend, that she wasn't welcome back there.

If Cynthia had committed adultery with the local architect, then Lydia would have been fine to come back to VBS at AFBC. But since she had been with me, then she was shunned. All bets were off.

Does this not seem like a double standard? Forgiveness only seems to go so far. It only reaches so far for most people. It reaches out for the average Joe but not for the pastor in the pulpit or for the Hester Prynne who he consummates with.

Should I have been held to a higher standard than the local plumber? Yes. But does that mean that the local church member should forgive me any less? No. Does that mean that the local church member should treat Lydia different? No.


  1. Right On. This is my problem too. How do we decide to whom we'll forgive and not?

    I have this huge problem in our church.This is how I found you. Our youth pastor failed with "moral failure" (more likely cheating).

    The senior pastor and the assistant pastor treat him like a leper. The board and some church members talk about him like he is hitler or the worst human criminal. I have a hard time to understand why and how come we welcome and love and forgive "bob" who was 27 yeast in prison and we are all about forgiveness and mercy and grace, but the youth pastor can't even talk with anyone from the church, he is not allowed to walk into the church and they are ready to crucify him on the door if they could.

    Why can't we extend grace to our prodigal sons and daughters? Why can't we forgive those among us? I have a really hard time to really believe that we can forgive "bob" I think we just pretend. Yes we have to forgive "bob" but we have to extend forgiveness not just in words but in action our own sinners too.

    I am at a point to struggle with church because of this. How can a senior pastor talk about mercy and love and forgiveness if he can't extend that to a fallen youth pastor?

    I don't agree with sin. I don't agree that he choose to sin, but I think the way the senior and assistant pastor and some leaders treat the youth pastor is as bed as the cheating sin. Why do we have the tendency to categorize sin?

    Arthur, you got me on this post. How can we choose to whom we extend or not forgiveness???

  2. I don't think we can choose it. Sure, we can delay forgiveness depending on the hurt. But I'm not sure forgiveness is an option for the Christian. I'm going to blog about that in the next couple of days.

    That's a terrible situation your church is in. It's a terrible thing when a leader falls. It's even worse when the leaders of the church don't forgive and set the example they should. Forgiveness is not the condoning of a sin. It is the reaching out and loving the person despite their sin.

    It really all comes down to this - what would Christ have done? Would he have run this young man off? Would he have treated him like a leper? How does Christ treat sinners? Does Christ demand perfection?

    Absolutely not. He gives grace.

    Those who demanded perfection were called Pharisees. They were the only ones who Christ treated harshly. They were the ones who spoke in black and white and demanded perfection be upheld. Christ was angry with them.

    I used to act that way and I am sorrowful for it. But I have learned since then that people make mistakes and sin. And as Christians, we need to love people as they are, look past their sin, and restore them. For two reasons:

    One, because it's what Christ did. Secondly, because one day, we might find ourselves in need of love and restoration as well.


  3. I see where you're coming from on this one, and see a bit of the double standards Christians in general like to give on other things. I wasn't a pastor though, and I still got shunned. I was, true enough, a staff member, but I was a lowly drama director. Not making excuse for my own sin, yet my first affair happened when I felt trapped where I was because everyone threatened me for the very thought of divorcing my husband. It didn't matter how bad he was, how horribly he treated me or the fact that my family hates him for the kind of man that he is. Divorce wasn't an option and affairs were... Well, more forgiveable. So I took whatever I could get. I would have done it "the right way" (as SOME think it's ok to move on after you're divorced) but no one would let me divorce. Finally, enough was enough... I knew I had to get the heck outta dodge, regardless of what anyone else thought. Even so, there is no forgiveness for those of us who "go against God's plan" in any way...
    I was shunned for wanting out of a bad situation.
    My boyfriend was shunned for having an affair. Excommunicated even. No forgiveness without returning to his wife though in his mind, he does her more misfavor to trap her as well as him with a heart that no longer abides with her... But it's a far longer story than I've ever written anywhere!...

  4. Forgiveness is always easier than permission, right? Or something like that. Or maybe it isn't.

    The worst part is that those on the other side don't want to hear our story. Yes, we sinned. Yes, we did commit adultery. Yes, we violated God's law.

    But we are also people who need forgiveness and mercy and love, right? But we often are rejected and hated by those who are supposed to give love the most freely - God's people.

    I get that we hurt them. I get that we were supposed to be people who were held to a higher standard. I get all of that.

    But what I don't understand is when hurt turns to vile anger and when people turn their backs on us and judge us. That's what I don't understand.

    I'm about to post a blog on this issue. Thank you once again for opening your heart.

    God bless you,