There are times when the railings on the various sides of the political square are all claiming the moral and ethical high ground. Once again the shouting matches between differing perspectives find me standing somewhere in the middle wanting simply to remind us all…it’s just not that simple.
I have been a pastor for more than 16 years now. As such, I am called to be an example to the people I serve and lead in all aspects of life and faith. Because I am the one whose office is in the church building, I am faced most often with people coming along looking for help.
I want to help them all – even the ones who I’m pretty sure are just making their living by manipulating the compassion of folks like me that take seriously the commands of Scripture to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless and so on. But the reality is that I can’t help them all. I simply have no means to do so.
At the same time, the means that I do have that are not actually mine require, upon my own honor, that I be a wise and faithful steward of those means. That is a tension that I struggle to manage between the responsibility to give and serve and the responsibility to use well what has been placed in my care.
But I am also a husband and father. And in that role I also find a tension to manage. It’s easy to sit in my study and pray with and serve and teach a man who is trying to break free from the slavery to his sexual appetites. But it’s another thing to invite him to live in my home and share a room with my sons.
I have a responsibility to serve that man in whatever way I am able. But I also have my first responsibility to provide for the safety of my family. They are both biblical mandates. You see, it’s just not that simple.
I believe in the power of God’s grace lived out in the lives of God’s people. I believe in love and forgiveness. I also believe that, as a leader, as a pastor, as a husband and father, I have a duty to care for those for whom I am absolutely responsible.
There is grace in welcoming with open arms the man just released from prison after stealing from his employer. There is wisdom in not making him the church treasurer.
There is grace in loving and receiving the man who has molested children. There is wisdom in not allowing him to serve in the children’s ministry.
The Scriptures teach me, “But if anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
The Scriptures also teach me, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
You see…it’s just not that simple.
In all of the moralizing absolutes that are bouncing around today, I nod in partial agreement with most. But I don’t know how to find the right way. In my life and ministry I have learned how utterly crucial it is to prayerfully seek the direction from the Holy Spirit. And that, my friends, is the only way I see to find our way.
To those who say we have a moral and even biblical responsibility to take in those displaced by the ravages of war…you’re right.
And to those who say we have a moral and biblical responsibility to provide for the safety of our families…you’re right.
It’s just not that simple.
All I know to do is follow the mandate of the passage I have found myself coming back to time and time and time again for simple wisdom:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)