|Read More Daily Jesus|
When was a time you had to learn something the hard way?
Due to my failings, I’ve been able to see these stories from a different perspective. And, in a way, I’m glad for the experience. Because of my sin, I lost my ordination and job and was required to spend a year in spiritual exile. I was allowed no form of leadership: public speaking, Sabbath School, worship, etc. - I could attend, but not lead. This caused a total spiritual realignment. Rather than letting my giftedness go stale, I invested my leadership and spiritual energy into my family. This was a very good thing!
During my year of censure, we experienced love and compassion at church week-to-week from local members and online daily from Christians globally. Our local church embraced and included my family. They were gentle with me in my wounded state. In short, they loved us. Juxtaposing this outflowing of love with the overwhelming stony silence I experienced from previous mentors and friends in ministry made the difference all the more dramatic.
In January 2015 my censure ended. I spent this second year investing in Sabbath School and Worship at church. The denominational leadership maintained their silence except to require a partial continuance of my censure - five years of ‘no preaching during the divine hour.’
At the beginning of 2016, having become a still pond rather than a flowing stream, I was in need of a spiritual outlet. Still engaged in personal Bible reading and study, I was becoming like the Dead Sea - stagnant and toxic. To become fresh and flowing again, like the Sea of Galilee, I began writing the Daily Jesus Devotional. I sent out a bulk email - to friends and family asking them to read and share the posts that touched them. In response, the church family again shone brightly, sponsoring and encouraging the project. Previous workmates however, seeing my hand reaching out for help, broke their silence in a completely unexpected way.
I started to understand, in full living colour, Jesus’ story about the beaten man on the side of the road. The previously silent priests and Levites began whispering as they stepped around me, "Someone else will help you, Dave. I can't be seen to be seen with you." One called because, he said, he didn’t want to put it into print. Another risked an email to say that a time when I would be worthy of positive public mention was outside the scope of his imagination.
All hope is not lost - there are many good Samaritans. Alongside the Christian camp, the mixed multitude - my new workmates, employers and friends - have picked me up without even knowing it. Just because that’s what they would want done for them.
In all fairness, I have received kind words from the occasional pastor. Thanks for your thoughtfulness. These conversations usually reflect regret that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has no strategy for reconciling fallen pastors. Perhaps Jesus spent so much time haranguing religious leaders so they would see that policy and procedure are pointless when dealing with confessed sin. Indeed, His constant niggling kept their attention focused on Him until the moment they saw that the pathway to reconciliation is always cross-shaped. This counter-intuitive recognition comes soaked in the tears of those crumpled beneath the Cross.
I've gained a deeper understanding of another of Jesus’ parables - that of the returned prodigal. I am he. I did wrong. Desperate wrong. I wasted the resources and gifts the Father gave me. And, when I came home dirty and empty handed, the Father embraced me - faster and more fervently than I expected! As did my family and church family. But, the older brother - returning from his work in the field - shakes his head at the Father’s foolish love for a wayward child and the wild celebration happening in the House.
I remember shaking my head at such things, not so long ago.
There is another story - not told by Jesus but lived by Him - about a person caught in sin by religious leaders, dragged to Jesus and thrown in front of Him for judgment. Our Lord drove those self-righteous men away and whispered to the broken one, “You’ll get no condemnation from me. Now go live, leaving sin behind!” Jesus has lived this story again and again with every one of His disciples between then and now.
Perhaps, the absence of my accusers is due to silent words scribbled by Jesus in dusty places. I really don’t know. But, what I do know is that I am deeply grateful to our Lord for His love and His ever-present handwriting on my softening heart.
If you are part of the body of Christ - thank you for loving us as you would want to be loved if thrown at Jesus’ feet. You know, there is no better place to be thrown!
And if you are one of the religious leaders, an older brother, thanks for stopping alongside the path for a quiet chat. It felt good to be noticed. I'll be in the House, if you're looking for me.