Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Are you discouraged?

For the past few weeks I have been part of the Long Beach Press Telegram "Ask the Clergy" section. Each week we are given a question to respond to (300 words or less). I thought that this week's question would make a good blog.
In wake of the latest scandal with
Ted Haggard, (the Pastor in
Colorado) how would you encourage
those who are discouraged, hurt or
disappointed by his actions, in
the Christian community?

In our society I still believe that ministers are given a sense of reverence and respect. In one sense this is good, because it allows them the opportunity to teach, train, and guide people as followers of Jesus Christ. And yet, the danger can be that people give too much power to their minister, and put them up on a pedestal. Let me talk about the power issue first. When someone is given a great amount of power, the danger lies in the misuse of this power. Power can be misused by taking advantage of another or by seeking to gain wrongly from that power. But the other side is being put on a pedestal. The problem with being put on a pedestal, is that no one deserves this, because no one can live up to it. The apostle Paul, in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 3:4-5, 4For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? 5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” All pastors are merely servants of Jesus. They are not giants, and they are not gods.

Ted Haggard’s scandal has reminded us that we are all sinners, and we are all capable of doing wrong. This scandal is hurtful and discouraging to the Christian community because it causes people to look down upon God when God’s leaders fail. But the encouragement comes when we realize that the job of a leader is to point people to Jesus Christ, and the love and salvation that comes from Jesus. Even when a leader falls, Jesus Christ is still the same, and the One in whom we are to believe. The encouragement is in knowing that the failure of others reminds us of our own struggles, and that Jesus alone is the One who can help us overcome our struggles and make a difference with our lives. The encouragement comes in knowing that the Church is to be built not on the lives of Christian leaders, but on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
So, when we fail, or when we are discouraged by our own actions, or by others, we can know that Jesus Christ is there for us. It is in Jesus that we are to believe, and whose example we are to follow. Christianity is not following a leader, but following a Savior; Jesus Christ. Tell me what you think (