Christianity Today has an editorial posted on their website titled “Before the Next Sex Scandal: How your church and your pastor may prevent the predictable.” After citing examples of recent sexual scandals, the article very passively discusses the issue of temptation with examples of resistance and then curtly the way churches should generally handle disciplinary measures to restore or when necessary isolate the offender. While it is admirable to speak frankly about the ongoing issue of clergy sexual immorality, to me there is something apparently missing from this little information piece, namely a personal interest in the subjects themselves!
While reading this it occurred to me that we might just as easily be discussing preventive measure for a hurricane or a small pox epidemic. Sexual scandal is framed in terms of “the act” and its repercussions. What is not discussed are the act-ors or the root issues that led to the scandalous action itself. I know that only so much can be said in a piece like this. I also know that it is intended for a general audience or readers who themselves have (it is assumed) very little to nothing to do with sexual immorality. The real root sin involved in every sexually immoral action is lust. When it becomes a full blown sexual scandal, the roots of lust have most often had time to spread and furrow deep into every area of a person’s life. In order to grow and deepen a life of dishonesty must be nursed and rarely admitted. Along with that lust most often bitterness and resentment help to blind, deepen and deaden the spirit.
All of these sins are very easily hidden within a pastorate or respectable position within the church. The scandal began long before it came to light. It began with the repeated decision to foster dishonesty and ambiguity. How can the church fend off scandal? By becoming a community that fosters truth tellers. Truth telling doesn’t begin after we have sinned. It begins at the point of our need. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his book Life Together as a model for being Christian in counteraction to German society’s way of isolating belief. It contains a way of confession and repentance that at first seemed impractical to its users. In time as they saw him practice it they realized it was exactly what they needed.
Instead of starting with the broken marriages and churches in the aftermath of sex scandal, let’s begin with the fragile sexuality these marriages and churches already contain. Invite real professional help for sexual and relational addictions. Don’t buy into the idea that Jesus instantly takes away any sexual brokenness at conversion or at the altar. He often uses the serious accountability and rigorous repentance of twelve step groups and counseling. Sexual sin reveals in the most intimate and vulnerable places of our psyches the utter frailty of our humanity. Christians can and are speaking honestly about sexual brokenness. We just need much more of it.