picture taken from csl.edu
It breaks my heart as I read the headlines today about Tullian Tchividjian. I don't write these things solely because I have deeply appreciated Tullian and his voice of radical grace in the church world, but more so because of how his life has been put on public display for all to see and ultimately judge. What I am not saying is that we should simply pretend that such a thing didn't happen, or be surprised that such a thing is public as he was a public figure (though I will never understand why we feel the need to publicize it and am always bothered by how obsessed we are with dissecting the details of these public figures lives, especially when we don't even know them or anything about them really), but it has been the harsh response of people, on mass, to burn him at the stake and use him as the most recent scapegoat that troubles me the most. As you read the comments to any of the articles covering this story, it doesn't take long to realize that we as the human race love to eat our own. We love the gossip and are fuelled even more when we feel justified in our judgement of other peoples actions, forgetting that they too are only human.
It’s amazing how much more mercy I give to people who struggle with sins I understand. The further their sin is from my own personal struggles, the more judgmental and callous I become. I’m not proud of that. It’s just where I was at that time in my walk.
I think it is true that his celebrity pastor status does play a part, but truth be told, it isn't because he was a celebrity that he fell, but rather that his falling carries with it celebrity status. This kind of stuff happens all the time in every corner of society because we are all broken people needing to be made new daily by the grace of Jesus. We all screw up, big and small, while on this journey, but it is those who are in the public eye who have their screw-ups publicized.
As a pastor and preacher, I feel so fortunate that I don't have the same scrutiny in my life by the tabloids and complete strangers who know nothing of me or my story. I feel for Tullian and his family as they are paraded into public opinion and judgement. I appreciated this statement I read from someone who posted on one of these threads about Tullian:
Our problem as humans, we want our ministers to be perfect and they're not, never will be. We are all broken and would be better off accepting someone who stands before us and speaks of God as just a regular "Joe" with warts, pimples and yes ear rings, or nose piercings, tattoos. When we polish something, then it takes continual polishing, that will eventually tarnish. // J. Slinkard
Now I can understand how people who have an axe to grind would use situations like this as ammunition against those they oppose. Though, I think it is low hanging fruit and a horrible way to make a point (especially when these situations are much more complex then we make them to be for our argument), but I can see how this would be easy and tempting. We do it all the time--finding the people who stand for what we are against, and when they fall, we jump all over it.
What's worse is when we are the creators of our own heroes, putting them on pedestals. No person could ever live up to the standards that we put on people that we have built up so high in our minds. In one instant they are the untouchables that can do no wrong. We defend their ideas and words with fervour and passion while in an instance turn and attack when they break the mould of ideology we built for them.
IT IS IN THE DEEP REALIZATION OF OUR OWN BROKENNESS THAT WE CAN FIND THIS RADICAL GRACE TO BE ABLE TO SEE PEOPLE IN A DIFFERENT LIGHT
I write on occasion for expastors.com, which ministers to pastors and those in ministry that are burning out or burnt out. I have also had the privilege to walk with a few of these people who were courageous to reach out for help. It breaks my hearts to hear their stories and hear the pressure that is put on them, to be superhuman, to be Christ in their congregants' lives and given a responsibility that was not meant to be given them.
When you see the stats of why those in ministry quit, we realize that we have a systemic problem in our church culture. Now of course, many of these pressures are self-induced, and I even wrote on this at expastors.com a while back. Also, I am not saying that no one was hurt in all this; that what was done wasn't wrong or that there are no consequences to our actions- there definitely are. But the issue I wish to address here is more a systemic attitude and culture that is fuelling this. I am no sociologist or psychologist, so I am certainly not attempting to diagnose the issue, and I realize that this conversation about Tullian and other public figures that have fallen from grace is much more complex and multi-layered. I, by no means, wish to treat this article as a one-stop ultimate answer. What I hope for is that this can be a sort of rally cry to come back to a reality of radical grace as we continue forward into this conversation.
As a starting point, I would hope we would be grounded in the reality that we all need this grace and transforming work in our lives and that we all have our vices and shortcomings. Through the realization of the human condition, I pray we would love much, because we have been forgiven much:
I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love. // Luke 7:47
Let me add this as well: If you have been hurt or wronged personally and are struggling to be a person of grace and love, I would recommend this message on surviving betrayal. If you feel that you are unforgivable, I would recommend this beautiful picture of how God relentlessly pursues us despite our shortcomings in the Gospel in Chairs.
It is in the deep realization of our own brokenness that we can find this radical grace to be able to see people in a different light, not condoning their actions, but coming to a place that despite their actions, we can live out radical love and grace and dialogue accordingly. It is in this place, of a sober reality of both our own shortcomings and the reality of the human condition with a balance of seeing the intrinsic value of another human person and the love and grace they so desperately need--that we would have a heart of love, hope and grace and not one of fear, hate and eating our own.
Ultimately, we will treat people to the level of value we choose to assign them. I believe the key to not being a judgmental person is to place a high value on every person you see. What and who we choose to see as valuable exposes the values we hold dear in our hearts. // Michael Cheshire, Why We Eat Our Own
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