Friday, May 7, 2010

"We have this treasure in jars of clay..."

Mature Christians aren't shocked by the behavior of others, even other supposedly mature Christians. Why? Because a mature Christian is one who not only understands that she needs Jesus Christ , but who also acknowledges that her need is constitutive of her fallen humanity as well as her identity as a child of God, given her in baptism. The on-going revelations about which bishop knew what and when, as well as how he responded, while often deeply troubling and sometimes even criminal, not to mention sinful, really only prove the truth of the Christian claim. This was the whole point of Greater Than Sin, the statement made by Communion and Liberation after allegations against the Holy Father began to appear during Lent.

In the evangelical world something similar was revealed this week, namely that Dr. George Rekers, who was a founding member of the Family Research Council, which was initially an expansion of Focus on the Family, recently went on a vacation to Europe with a male prostitute he hired from a website that exists in order to allow prostitutes to advertise their services. In addition to being a psychiatrist at the University of South Carolina, whose expertise is homosexuality and who, quite controversially, advocates what is known as reparative therapy, which seeks to sexually re-orient homosexuals, that is, make them straight, Rekers is also a Baptist minister. Despite the fact that Dr. Rekers, who steadfastly refuses to admit there was anything untoward in all this, despite being contradicted by the young man who accompanied him, has had nothing to do with FRC for for quite awhile, Tony Perkins, president of the council made this statement, which I like a lot: "FRC has had no contact with Dr. Rekers or knowledge of his activities in over a decade, so I can't speak to what he may or may not have done. However, I can say that while it's extremely disappointing when any Christian leader engages in the very activities that they 'preach' against, it's not surprising. The Scriptures clearly teach the fallen nature of all people. We each have a choice to act upon that nature or accept the forgiveness offered by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. As leaders, we should do our best to ensure our actions—both public and private—match our professed positions" (underlining emphasis mine).


Cutting to the chase, a mature Christian recognizes that her best efforts and those of others are not enough.  Recognizing our need and having it met in, through, and by Jesus Christ is what allows us to be gracious and graceful, kind and merciful, empathetic and sympathetic, while not defining down the holiness to which our baptism calls us. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, Gentile former pagans who were having a difficult time living as Christians, "[b]e imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). So, who can you trust? You can trust Christ at work in his church through broken, sinful people. It only proves the truth of the Christian claim to recognize that "we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us" (2 Cor. 4:7).

Far from using this as an excuse to engage in hypocritical and/or immoral behavior, Christ Jesus not only offers us a way to overcome our sinfulness, but is the Way, as well as the Truth, and the Life. Far from condemning one another in a most un-Christian manner, we need to help each other. So, it is very much an act of charity, though a difficult one for which we can usually expect no thanks, to call someone out for sinful behavior. We have a duty to hold each other accountable, but we do so not in order to condemn, quite the contrary. In other words, as disciples of Christ we don't shoot our wounded, even when the wounded refuse to acknowledge their brokenness. First aid requires that the bleeding be stopped. Neither is this to argue that those hurt and decimated by the evil behavior of others are not our primary concern.

Jesus Christ is always a mercy challenging us, which means we do not have the luxury of ignoring the sinner, or even the sinner's enabler, who makes himself complicit and whose actions only create more victims, which is why we must once again ask, "[a]longside all the limitations and within the Church’s wounded humanity, is there or is there not something greater than sin, something radically greater than sin? Is there something that can shatter the inexorable weight of our evil? Something that, as the Pope writes, 'has the power to forgive even the greatest of sins, and to bring forth good even from the most terrible evil'?" I would say there is nothing that overcomes our evil, but there is some- One- Christ the Lord! Let us return wounded to Him who was wounded for us and by whose stripes, paradoxically, we are healed (Isa. 53:5).

Christos Anesti

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