What If My Teacher-Pastor Sins?
By Fred Pruitt
Below is an email I received and my reply below. The names have been removed, but it is used with the permission of the writer.
Hello, i’ve read some of your articles and decided to write to you personally to ask some questions that have been weighing on my heart. I’ve been a Christian for a long time and recently (within the last 2 years) have felt a strong call to world missions (or some type of full-time ministry). I don’t know who else to talk to about my struggles as a believer which seem to be getting darker and heavier by the day. The only glimps of true freedom I ever experience is the idea of a life and mindset which is Christ-reguarding as opposed to Self-reguarding. I know there is something inherently wrong with what the post-apostolic church has done to the message of the gospel and the reality of union, which the bible stresses as the essential mystery of God’s plan. I’m worried, however, about the fact that this message was taught so vehemently and passionately by one of my past mentors (who was a pastor) who ended up leaving his wife and church with another woman. To say the least it was discouraging and disillusioning for me. My question is, how do I reconcile this amazing message of freedom (which i believe was taught by the Lord and the Apostles) with “you will know them by their fruit” and the fact that he and others in his circle have been shunned and reguarded as rebellious heretics? —
Either way, I just know there is more to the gospel than a new set of rules and lists to live by; it seems like the unfathmable person of Jesus is no longer the object or our love and passionate pursuit but a rescource we call on to help us in our pursuit of self-improvement. Now at my church the focus has changed from Him to anything and everything else- prayer, tithing, church development, christian social issues, the law, etc. (not that any of these things are bad in and of themselves.- but the passion to really know God like Paul in phillipians 3:8 is all but extinguished) …Please tell me your thoughts about this situation.
Thanks a lot,
Thanks for letting me hear from you. I know your struggles and your frustrations, because I’ve had them and lived in them, too, for years.
I can’t offer you any explanation for the behavior of your pastor. “Every man shall give an account of himself before God.” His situation is between him and the Lord, who is merciful and gracious, and his error will work out to everyone’s good, including his, because this is the nature of the God in whom we live and move and have our being. Of course his error probably caused much consternation in many, including you, and in that offense made whatever he was teaching seem suspicious.
But what if he had just been teaching the standard gospel teaching without the “union” message? How many have done the same thing from that standpoint? Pastors having affairs is unfortunately very common, and I blame the job and other things rather than any “message” they might be preaching. Being a “pastor” is one of the most difficult jobs on earth, full of pressures and stresses many of us never know. Pastors are expected to not be like other men, and are judged by men much more harshly than they judge non-pastors. This isn’t right, but it is the reality.
Still, again asking the question, if he had committed this error without having taught these union truths, but had been one who only knew and taught the basic gospel, and had the affair, would that make you question the basic gospel? As I pointed out, pastors (and not just pastors) having affairs is very common, no matter what message they teach. But from your standpoint, if you are fixed in your inner witness from the Spirit that you have been born again, and that’s all your pastor taught and then had the affair, would you question what the Spirit had witnessed regarding YOUR new birth, because your brother stumbled?
The point I am making is this: where does this “knowing” come from that you are believing, this “knowing” that you pointed out in your letter that has revealed not only that you are born again, but that Christ now lives in you as your very life and person? Did you receive it from the Spirit, from God, or is it just some theory of man which you need some outside confirmation of?
I believe when you wrote me and expressed how you have seen the reality of “Christ in you,” I believe that you are like Peter when he asked the disciples who people were saying He was:
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)
So, in the same way, is this God that has revealed this to you or not? That is the question you have to answer, because I certainly can’t answer it for you. If not God, forget it and go back to what you were doing.
If it IS God (and that would be my testimony) then no matter what others do, whether they stand or fall and no matter what they seem to preach or teach, you stand in what God has given YOU! You become like the Psalmist:
Psa 91:7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
Certainly we don’t desert or abandon those who stumble, and when necessary we recognize error or sin if it occurs, but we also recognize two things in that: one, we stand in what has been revealed within us by the Spirit and don’t back down an inch from our own personal life in God; and two, we have compassion on those who have stumbled and know that isn’t the end of the story, because our God loves them, too, and will bring all those who love Him into His bosom, though the road may be hard and it may be a long road, too. We begin to see with God’s eyes, and see redemption and salvation and reconciliation flooding the whole earth, encompassing everything within it.
Of course there will always be those who will say, “Aha, look he sinned, we knew he wasn’t right!” But we have been given the gift in having Christ in us to be able always to look past circumstances and outward appearances, to see the life and plan and love of God working in all things, even in difficulties as you have described.
So, I think you are on the right path. I’ve been on it too for a lot of years, and I’ve had my stumblings and my errors, and out of them the Lord brought forth life every time. We don’t listen to the judgers and scoffers who seem to delight when others fall, but only to the Spirit of Love within us, who loves all, receives all, and finally, when we see it, IS ALL and in all. All things HE WORKS after the counsel of His own will, and even this stumbling and even the judging will “work together for good” because we have been called according to His purpose. Temporary setbacks may cause us to pause and consider, but we go on, believing and having faith in God and what HE HAS REVEALED IN US.
So stand, brother, I am with you. Please write anytime.
All my love,