I recently saw a post praising God for saving the trapped soccer team in Thailand. Under the post someone asked if God was so great, why didn’t he prevent them from getting trapped in the first place. I was put off by the question then realized I shouldn’t have been. People have good, legitimate questions about God and me (and we) the church shouldn’t roll my eyes or ignore them. Even though I’ve experienced God’s love and peace for two decades, I often have questions I struggle with.
A pastor who I’ve admired, respected and considered a mentor for many years was recently accused of sexual misconduct. When I first heard the news, I was devastated and couldn’t bring myself to read about it. Last week when new allegations surfaced however, I began searching for answers. Answers as to how someone who has led, taught and helped so many could live in such duplicity. Answers as to how this keeps happening and how to stop it.
I came across a quote in the New York Times that sadly began to answer my legitimate and heartfelt questions. “In many evangelical churches, a magnetic pastor like [_________] is the superstar on whom everything else rests, making accusations of harassment particularly difficult to confront. Such a pastor is seen as a conduit to Christ…”
I loved this pastor. He helped me understand the Bible better and provided illustrations that made Scripture clearer and more applicable. He kept me from having to think too hard or wait on the Holy Spirit. He helped me in a way that kept me from having to help myself. He became, unbeknownst to me, my personal conduit to Christ. But that wasn’t the only problem.
While I was wondering repeatedly what the pastor’s family must be thinking I had a Spirit-inspired question pop into my head, “What if this pastor’s wife was one of your daughters?” Would I want people who “loved” this pastor clamoring for dirt and answers to make themselves feel better? What if he was my father or son? Would I want people demonizing him or earnestly praying for help and healing for everyone involved?
Sometimes the answers we want aren’t ones we like. I had relied too much on a broken and imperfect human to tell me about God instead of seeking him myself no matter how hard, confusing or time consuming. I had made a man into a tiny god and when he failed, I was too self-absorbed to pray for him and his family like I would if it were my own. I just wanted answers.
How do we answer the difficult, legitimate questions the unchurched has about God? By responding the same way we want our questions answered; with the patience, understanding and humility that comes when we realize our own brokenness and failures. When we see the churched and unchurched in ourselves, the level ground at the foot of the cross helps us respond more often in truth and love.
Just like Jesus did.