Rousing Her Radiance: Day 30
Contending for Justice
‘In the darkness of the unexpressed, sin poisons the whole of a man.’ - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Give me a bold sinner any day. Worldly souls who strut their unchastity usually live that way. You know what you are getting.
My single friend Michael, a lapsed Catholic with no religious pretenses, loved sex with women. Many women. He was a good-natured party guy whose appeal lessened as he aged; then sex became a way of propping up a fading image. I met him when he was considering marrying a woman with whom he had a child.
I got serious with him. Micheal was prepping for family life. I gave him a ‘Come-to-Jesus-sexual-justice-lecture-101’. ‘Brother, this is your chance to get saved. Answer the question: do you want your son to treat women like conquests, not people? Do you want him to be an adulterer? Your sexual choices impact other lives, two very particular ones now. Act like it. God will help you and you will need it.’ He came to a few of our gatherings then moved away with his new family. I hope they are okay.
Michael was easier to engage than most disintegrated Christians I know who know the truth but fail to live it. Their sacred view of sex, by its very nature veiled, works against transparency. When sexuality goes south that hiddenness becomes a tight lid over a divided life that often grows more divided and hidden over time.
The shamed, guilty sinner splits these illicit pleasures from his real world, which further darkens and deepens sin. Its impact on others grows like cancer. Efforts to shame and silence others grow in the dark. Here we must name the injustice of sexual sin, especially when the power differential between leader and his or her ‘charge’ is large. Injustice is now weighted by abuse.
Christian pastors have face and place to lose, a congregant just her decency. He may well have drawn others with relational gifts and magnetism fueled by their shared love of Jesus. Our common enemy will employ the close interplay of sexuality and spirituality in our communities––‘Lover and Beloved’ of Song of Songs, John Paul II’s embrace of beauty in the sexual essence of male and female—to enhance a slow, almost imperceptible seduction of a friend into a lover.
These things happen quietly—a mixture of spiritual pursuit with sexual desire that is never addressed, never named, never brought into the light until it is exposed from without. I recall a conversation I mistakenly overheard between my pastor and a fellow congregant who pleaded with him ‘to remember the night’ and reconsider their bond, etc. I wasn’t clear on the particulars. When we confronted him with two clear instances of pastoral violation, he denied them and made us the enemy until five more came forward within the year. Each thought they were special—the one. Shattering. The broken edges in one man’s soul, unattended and sharpened in darkness, left indelible marks in each woman’s life.
The only antidote to these only too familiar scenarios? Pastor, reveal yourself! We must make sexual integration—chastity––a cornerstone of leadership formation for leaders. I write of this extensively in Rediscovering Our Lost Fullness when I highlight the superb formation that Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis provides for its ministers.
We contend for justice when we cultivate a community of transparency with ruthless decency. I say it again: Pastor, reveal yourself. Each of us is a potential adulterer who can level little divides by confessing them before they become cliffs off which we take others.
‘Thank You for Your mercy, Jesus. We marvel: it is deeper than our divides and almighty in its power to dissolve them. Teach us to fall on the sword for our sake, for the people You love, for a radiant Bride. None of us are exempt from little foxes that we give power to wreck the vineyard. Woo us in compromise to fall on the Rock before it falls on us (Matt. 21: 44).’
‘Father, we thank You for Jesus who established the Church on a Rock against which hell will not prevail (Matt 16:18). We pray for every Christian leader to build on Her firm foundation of sexual clarity and integrity. Father, unmask the deceiver and divider of Christians and unite us in one Spirit. As weak members of Christ, we ask for truth to guide our pursuit of sexual wholeness, for grace to sustain it, and for spiritual power to transform us. May we reflect the chaste radiance of Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18) as we “shine like stars in the universe, holding out the word of life” (Phil. 2:15-16) to a lost and hurting world.’