Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not Infallible

It should not surprise us to learn that over the centuries since Jesus Christ died on the cross in order to pay the price so that sinful people could be forgiven, there have been numerous scandals involving people in church leadership positions. Pastors, popes and so forth are hardly exempt from the weaknesses common to all human beings, notwithstanding the inability of some Christians to concede that their leaders are just flesh and blood. Satan feels especially threatened by people who have publicly taken a stand for Christ, and he tends to target such people precisely because they pose a threat to his dominion.

In recent years, there have been some rather notorious scandals, particularly involving Christian televangelists, as detailed in this recent article in Wikipedia. But I rhink it would be a mistake to pick on people involved in television ministries, although it might be legitimately argued that such prominent media ministries tend to pose unusual temptations for  people with bloated egos. There were scandals in the church long before radio and TV were ever invented; the only difference I can see is that we are now able to more easily hold leaders under a microscope which amplifies the perception of their failures.

There is a sense in which we collectively get the leaders we deserve, although those of us who make every effort to keep our responsibilities might understandably feel unjustly insulted when we are blamed for the failures of others. Whenever we believers choose pastors or spiritual leaders, we take on certain responsibilities: To pray for them, for sure, but also to hold them accountable. When people suggest that "submission" to pastors and submission to Christ ought to be regarded as synonymous, we need to remind them that even Saint Paul said that people should reject anything he said if it failed to exhibit consistency with the truth of God.

We ought not to be paranoid, but neither should we be oblivious to the red flags which serve as God's early warning system. If people had paid attention to those red flags long before they did, the tragedy at Jonestown in Guyana might have been avoided.

Future tragedies may still be avoided, but not until we decisively refute and reject the false doctrines which insulate and shield leaders from legitimate criticism.

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