This is a guest post by my good friend, Todd Littleton. Todd is the pastor of Snow Hill Baptist Church in Tuttle, Oklahoma. I have known Todd since our days together at Oklahoma Baptist University. There we studied together, shared life together and teamed up on a great flag football team. Todd is the person who motivated me to begin blogging. Through all my struggles, he has remained a dear and trusted friend. Todd blogs at The Edge of the Inside. You should subscribe to his blog. He will keep you thinking.
Disqualification. Check the rule books of all major sports and a person may clearly understand what would disqualify a participant. Watch what you do with your bat or your bets in baseball. Be wary of any needle in any sport whether biking or riding a derby winner. In college be sure to keep the grades up and be hands-off to handouts or not only you but your school may suffer the indignities of disqualification.
Right now an investigation is underway regarding a highly popular, if not high profile, Christian speaker and educator who, it seems, has fabricated a narrative to increase his credibility when speaking about Islam. Seems like simple research and the accompanying conclusions are not enough for book sales and speaking tours. Will he be disqualified? Who knows. Should he be? That may well be determined on how you employ your ethical framework.
My friend Frank, owner of this site, has been disqualified. Openly and publicly he has chronicled his life story on this site. Assuming personal responsibility is not a short suit for Frank. So when he asked me to consider a “guest” post for his site he offered a topic – “What about a guy like me?” Let me translate more specifically. “What future does a guy like me have when it comes to ministry since I have been disqualified?” Adultery. Divorce. Death knells.
Rather than offer an unqualified answer, I would prefer to flip the question. Would we disqualify a minister for lying? Would we disqualify a minister for a quick temper? Would we disqualify a minister for mismanaging his time? The question is not whether the minister should be fired, but would he be disqualified?
In the text often raced to in our attempts to purify the office of clergy we sidestep other qualifications, giving a pass to those who are intemperate, lazy and dishonest. Oh, they may lose their job in one place, but our churches are full of people who have passed from one place to the next with these foibles unaddressed.
Pressing the matter further lies with the community – Christian community at large or whatever local Christian community of which Frank becomes a part. What place does forgiveness and repentance play in these kinds of matters? What part does restoration play in the process of repentance? These are sticky matters. They are local community matters. I imagine this provokes the chagrin of Frank’s more conservative readers, maybe even Frank himself.
But, taking a cue from Derrida I am still left wondering at what point we understand forgiveness. If there is anything we would not forgive can we really say we forgive anything? Following on that, the Jewish understanding of repentance is not the quick – “Oh, that’s OK.” Included in the process is restitution and restoration. Too often we in the Christian community like the car wreck. We rubber neck to get the details. We stop way short of embodying the life of Jesus before a watching world. We are quick to judge and condemn. Slow we are to forgive and through the process of repentance require restitution and offer restoration.
What would it mean if the Christian community, the local church, lived out the redemptive narrative of Jesus, the Christ in these matters. Now, that life re-ordering narrative is sure to stir the imagination and cue up what it means to encounter Good News.
At what point does the Christian community decide to embody the redemptive work of Jesus in the here and now for the world to see? I will be watching as Frank continues to write and on occasion to share his story. Maybe we will get a glimpse at the answer in the community of which he and Suzie are now a part.