Great Stuff – Gottesdienst – Real Sin. Real Forgiveness. Real Faith. Real Fruits of Repentance.

Gottesdienst has posted an excellent editorial.  Check out the many new posts at their site.

Tullian Tchividjian Calls on Churchgoers to Show Grace to Disgraced Pastors: It’s ‘Anti-Christian’ to Remember Them by Scandals

The topic of grace for the disgraced pastor is making its rounds. Again. The Christian Post has written an article about two pastors who were forced to resign their calls due public sin. You can read the article HERE, wherein Tullian Tchividjian and Chad Bird discuss how there is grace for disgraced pastors, something which no one denies. This comes on the heels of the scandalous actions and inactions of the Roman church in Pennsylvania. Now we don’t know if Tchividjian and Bird are deliberately being obtuse or if they really don’t understand the impact of what they did. The Editors at Gottesdienst have been clear about the issues:There are public consequences for public sin, and some sin because of the gravity of its offense bear with it a greater consequence. Nevertheless, there is forgiveness of sin for those who repent. Despite these facts, the accusations of being “anti-Christian” for holding to these consequences are still hurled against us.

We don’t think we need to rehash everything that was said before. But here is what needs to be said. We can hardly believe that it needs spelling out, but apparently it does. When men like Tchividjian and Bird committed adultery, they didn’t do this just in their heart or mind. They violated not only their marriage vows and their ordination vows, they defiled not just themselves, their spouses, and their own marriage beds, they shattered forever not only their own families’ lives and future relationships, but they defiled their willing partners, and their husbands, and their marriage beds, and shattered those families’ lives and future relationships. They sinned against their brothers in the office of the ministry, and tarnished reputation of all who bear that office. It breaks a trust almost beyond comprehension.

So while we’re sure it was coincidental that this comes on the heels of the Roman church’s scandal in Pennsylvania, we don’t think it is without comparison. It is so easy for us to hear the word adultery and think abstractly about it, without giving thought to what that sin entails and who all is affected by it. Adultery is not the same as pedophilia, but the carnage that follows in the wake of both is just as vicious to all involved, it is just as demonic and destructive to the faith of all involved. So if we want to talk about real sin, let’s actually talk about the real nature of how it affects everyone involved and what it does to their hearts, minds, and faith. Let’s not abstract it so as to make it easier for us to deal with. Take a look at what effect this has had on the faith of those involved in the Roman church, and then know that this very effect took place around the circumstances of the adultery committed by Tchividjian and Bird.

This does not mean they can’t be forgiven, for Christ died for all sins. If they are repentant, their sin is forgiven. This is not under contention. As Tchividjian and Bird wrote, “If God is who we say he is, then real sin is also met with real forgiveness.” Nor is it simply the case that temporal sins have temporal consequences and punishments. This is, thankfully, now admitted by both parties. As Tchividjian and Bird wrote, “That doesn’t justify destructive behavior, diminish the sting of consequences, or minimize the harming effects of destructive choices.”

So let’s agree where we can. God is who we say He is. Real sin is met with real forgiveness. But it doesn’t stop there. Because real faith grasps hold of that forgiveness. And real faith bears real fruits of repentance. For

“We believe, teach, and confess that, although the contrition that precedes, and the good works that follow, do not belong to the article of justification before God, yet one is not to imagine a faith of such a kind as can exist and abide with, and alongside of, a wicked intention to sin and to act against the conscience. But after man has been justified by faith, then a true living faith worketh by love, Gal. 5:6, so that thus good works always follow justifying faith, and are surely found with it, if it be true and living; for it never is alone, but always has with it love and hope.”

— FC EP III, 11.

Don’t short circuit God’s work among us. Not emphasizing the fruits of repentance is not just to short circuit it but also to misrepresent it.

So in the case of Tchividjian and Bird, and others like them, what might this fruit look like? For starters, it would acknowledge that the fact that their continued public teaching of the faith, notwithstanding their many and great talents, needs to cease. It needs to cease for the sake of those they sinned against. Remember their sin of adultery was not simply a sin against God, but also a sin against their fellow man (the families involved, their brothers in the office, their parishioners and students). Fruits of repentance in the forgiven sinner display concern for the one sinned against. Fruits of repentance in the forgiven sinner are made manifest in prayer for those sinned against, that their faith will not be made a shipwreck by this sin. Fruits of repentance in the forgiven sinner do not stop with thanksgiving to God for forgiveness, but with that forgiveness look beyond it to make, as far as possible, restitution for what has been destroyed. Consider for a moment what the families, the parishioners, the fellow pastors in the ministerium go through every time Tchividjian and Bird write a book, post an article, or are highlighted in the news or on social media for discussing the depths of their sin and how much they are forgiven. That is shameful and anti-Christian for a forgiven sinner to thrust forgiveness in the face of those abused so that they can profit from it.

It needs to cease for the sake of the church. First that others are not encouraged by the popularity garnered by their restoration to do what they used to do only without the title. Second, that the church is not led into confusion over who is given to publicly preach and teach. We have enough of that already, we don’t need to add fuel to the fire. They have disqualified themselves from public teaching, their sin has a consequence.  While we have no authority over them, as Christians we call on them to stop and will continue to tell other fellow Christians that they should not follow men who have disqualified themselves in this way.

So, are Tchividjian and Bird, and others in their situation, forgiven? Yes, if they are repentant, for repentant sinners are forgiven. They are saved by grace alone on account of Christ alone through faith alone. And yet, faith is never alone. The fruits of the spirit and repentance spring forth therefrom. May it be also with these men for the good of those whom they have wronged, for the good of the church at large and its reputation in the world, and for their own good also. This is how they are to use their many and great gifts. They are to employ their gifts in the places where God has actually called and put them: in their homes to repair the ruins and limit the further harm they can do to those they’ve already abused. As St. Paul wrote:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

— 1 CORINTHIANS 13:1–7

They would do it because they trust God and love their neighbor. In other words, they would bear fruits worthy of repentance.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

Great Stuff – Gottesdienst – Real Sin. Real Forgiveness. Real Faith. Real Fruits of Repentance. — 7 Comments

  1. This is an excellent response to Tullian Tchividjian’s recent demand that we are not to remember his past sins. My website covered his resignation, subsequent remarriage and his attempt to regain his job-preaching to the masses. I have been told that he has not apologized his victims not has his current wife who bears some responsibility as well.

    This is summed it up well. “While we have no authority over them, as Christians we call on them to stop and will continue to tell other fellow Christians that they should not follow men who have disqualified themselves in this way.”

  2. Thank you pastor.

    I think that this is a very valuable article. To build on Dee’s remarks, it brings to my mind that when people demand that we not remember past sins, particularly sins of this magnitude and impact, it is not a time for gospel but law.

    And what kind of law? I really think that a piece written pseudonymously at my blog, titled “The Truth About Being A Prodigal and Why You Never Want to be One” does a nice job doing that. It is not the law with the full relentless hammer but gentle words that nevertheless can break bones. If you are interested in reading it, just copy and paste that title into Google.

    Contrary to what you might hear from some, there is no way that this article is against the forgiving way of Jesus. Note that when Jesus speaks of adultery, He does not demand that the spouse who is sinned against get back together with the offending party. Is forgiveness necessary? Of course. Would it be best if forgiveness and near full restoration of relationship could happen? Certainly. That said, their might be factors on either or both sides that prevent this. In the case of the offender, habits of sin which cannot be overcome, or worse, persistent unrepentance, evident in the *demand* to not remember said sin or sins. In the case of the other, scars which cannot heal fast enough.

    +Nathan

  3. I want to say thank you so much for your blog post. I normally do not get myself involved in blogs/comments.
    As a fellow pastor, it absolutely sickens me that these men keep talking. I understand there is grace and forgiveness like you wrote, but if they truly cared about people they would be quiet and mind their own business. They had a platform. They had a ministry. They destroyed it. They have no qualification at all to speak and tell everybody about the “grace” we should offer to people like them. True humility, true living faith does not demand and insist on grace and forgiveness for people like me. True faith puts its hand on it’s mouth and does what its called to do. Mind your own business. Take care of your family. Grace always must be a gift not a demand. It’s like they can’t be thankful for small things. True pastors appreciate small things. “I must become less. He must become more.”

  4. I think Bird and Tchividjian would have been better served by paying a few of their influential pals to write articles on their behalf. At least it wouldn’t have come across as self-serving that way.

  5. I must add something in order to not come across as lacking sympathy or compassion… they are under God’s grace as baptized believers in Christ and are forgiven of their sins.

    I also have to add… I suspect their struggle with staying away is more-so rooted in the ‘cult of personality’ end of things that has built up around them. It’s really hard to let go when you are used to all the likes, shares, thumbs up, and adoring crowds. It’s a bit tragic, actually. I suspect it’s an addiction to the dopamine hits that drives them in some regards.

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