"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

What Makes a Man Great Is God's Grace

Below is a very personal, moving email that I received after my post regarding Admiral Nelson. A former pastor who forfeited his ministry because of an adulterous affair wrote me the following email. He has given me written permission to post it. The names have been removed to protect the privacy of the families involved. An additional response to this pastor's email from me follows:

Good morning Wade. I wanted to comment on your blog post privately today, and I hope you do not mind. I really enjoyed your post on Admiral Nelson. I am a history buff, but had never heard of him before. Thanks for sharing it.

Anytime I hear of a “hero” who has an affair, it makes me take pause of my own behavior. Several years ago, I became involved in an extra-marital affair. As soon as the affair occurred, I recognized that I had forfeited my right to the pastorate, found a secular job, and resigned the pastorate. Eventually I divorced, and married the woman I was involved with. God’s grace and faithfulness were things I always knew about before, but now I know about personally. Romans 8:28 is not just a theory or a theological argument, it is absolutely true, and for that, I am thankful.

The author you quoted is right when he says that history tends to vilify the players in these kinds of circumstances. To some of my wife's family, I was a sexual predator, who had offended before her, and after her. In collusion with others within the our local association, attempts were made to dig up evidence from previous churches I had served that I was a perpetual moral offender. Of course, they found none, and only when the people were confronted by some close to me did they back off and drop the subject. To the church people I served as pastor, my current wife was the villain, the whoremonger of Proverbs 5 and 6, come to seduce the mighty man of God.

Ultimately, neither extreme is true. I had never before been involved in anything even remotely close to this kind of behavior, and have never since. But I found myself in a place of despair in ministry, the recipient of terribly mean-spirited anonymous letters, constant attacks by a few deacons, and the recognition that I was not happy in my marriage. I was in trouble, for sure. My current wife was at the time lonely, seemingly trapped in a loveless marriage, and never intended for anything like what happened to happen. We were on a collision course, and we both knew it. Within a year, our friendship had turned into internal feelings that I knew were inappropriate. I contacted two other pastor-friends, and asked them for direction and accountability. They directed me to certain Bible verses to meditate on, and prayed with me. I never heard from them again. I contacted my director of missions, and asked for a meeting. He came and asked me point blank if I had had an affair, and I said, “Absolutely not. I have not laid a hand on her.” He said good, then prayed with me, then went to three other pastors (that I know of), all with connections at my church, and told them that I was having an affair with a woman in my church. It did not take long for the rumors to spread.

For the better part of a year, I tried to some measure to do the right thing, but was constantly being accused of doing the wrong. My daughters, who were young teenagers at the time, were at different times pulled into rooms at church and told by people that their father was having an affair. It was the most difficult time of my life. Although it was flawed logic, I determined that I had been doing the right thing my entire life, and this is where it has taken me. I reasoned that if I am going to be punished and lose my career for something I did not do, I might as well do it. It was then that the relationship turned romantic. Of course, later on, people would say, “See? We told you he was having an affair!” It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I say all of this because I deal with this issue often: am I a good man? Am I a decent person, who made one really big, career-ending mistake? Is the good I did in the fifteen years I spent in vocational ministry valid, or does my one indiscretion render all of that null and void? Am I capable of doing good in the future? Am I permanently disqualified from vocational ministry? (not that I would ever want to pastor again—I’m no glutton for punishment). These and other questions are ones that I deal with fairly often, especially when I run into people who knew me from before.

When I read posts like yours from today, I am encouraged in some ways—I’m not the only one to have gone through this, I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last. But at the same time, I am also discouraged, when I read comments like this: “ It can be said that Admiral Nelson was a great commander, but it cannot be said he was a great man. May Christian people never be blinded by the world's tendency to turn a blind eye toward unethical behavior or immoral activity simply because the perpetrator of such activity is considered a hero.”

Not that I disagree—Nelson was a perpetual philanderer. I find that people tend to place me in the same category as him, even though it only happened to me once.

You should know that I have come to grips with what happened. My family is changed forever, but is happy, and in many ways better off. God really is good as making all things work together for the good of my family. My wife and I stand as ones forgiven by the grace of a mighty God, and we will forever be thankful. However, there are those who seem to look upon us as people who are part of a blight on Christianity, and a black mark on ministry. Will that ever go away?

Thank you again, Wade, for your article today. And thank you for your articles every day. I never get tired of reading your insights. You are a great encouragement to me, and I appreciate you greatly.



Dear ___________,

I would propose you are not a good man. You are a great man.

You are humble, open, transparent and acknowledge your moral failure. The difference between a flawed man and a good man is the inability to feel guilt, sorrow and remorse for moral failure. Admiral Nelson never expressed remorse or repentance. In fact, he flaunted his behavior. He was never broken or saw it as a blight -- which you obviously do yours.

The difference between a good man and a great man is the grace of God. A genuine faith relationship with Jesus Christ causes a man to make an honest evaluation of his moral failures, mitigates against the natural desire to hide or cover it from others, works tirelessly to restore that which has been lost where possible, but most important of all, rests in Christ's forgiveness while moving forward in life.

It seems that to me that you now know experientially what we preachers all understand intellectually. Our only hope is God's grace.

This is what makes you a great man. You cannot boast about your life, but you can boast about Christ. This is where we all should be.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

79 comments:

Kevin Bussey said...

I don't know where I would be without Grace.

Thanks to this man for sharing what he has been through. Let us remember all sides of failures. Those who fail need grace and those who are affected need grace too!

The Cachinnator said...

Amen.

Alycelee said...

My heart broke when I read this letter. Not because of the saddness of this story. But because that I know some who read this story will think nothing like this could ever happen to them.
In fact, my own rebellion began in my early 20's with someone believing something of me that wasn't true. It was before I knew Christ, but it set me on a path of rebellion an self-destruction, only Christ Jesus could turn me from years later.

May God help us see that for the grace of God, we all fall and I'm so thankful that this man was allowed to see the 'other side of grace' given by God, the grace that we are so often less willing to give to one another.

irreverend fox said...

My heart breaks for this man's first wife, his kids, his church, his witness...

I read excuses and justification and little remorse for his sin. I do not wonder if there was a reason he referred to his sin as an "extra-material affair" and not an "adulterous-affair". I mean, he doesn't seem too upset...who could beat themselves up over "flawed logic", one career ending "mistake" (not a covenant ending mistake) or one act of "indiscretion"? His comment about not being a glutton for punishment says in all...he sure believes that HE is the victim it seems and that HE was not treated fairly. Give me a break.

His "current" wife was, frankly, a "villain, the whoremonger of Proverbs 5 and 6" who had indeed "come to seduce the mighty man of God." That does, apparently, sum it up.

And he was a sexual predator...another accurate although uncomfortable description. He also lied to his DOM when he denied an affair "I never touched her" did not answer his DOM's reported question, did it?

He was having an affair...the rumors where true. Affairs happen long before sex (or "romance" as he put it) happens.

It is amazing that he is surprised that people would question his ethics in previous churches...when you loose all credibility you loose all credibility.

He asks: "Am I a good man?" No, sir, you are not a good man. "Am I a decent person?" Compared to what? You are not trustworthy or honorable, that much is clear. "Am I capable of good in the future?" Sure. "Am I permanently disqualified from vocational ministry?" Are you kidding? Yes, sir, you're “indiscretion”, your “one really big career ending” “mistake” disqualifies you, for the rest of your life.

I'm sorry Wade, I find no greatness in what this man wrote of himself and his situation. I see, in what he put in his own words...an unrepentant, excuse making, out of touch with reality, self absorbed adulterer.

Charles said...

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

fox --

Ever wonder what Jesus was writing on the ground? The Bible doesn't say but let's both of us spend the rest of the day considering that question.

Charles said...

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

There is plentiful redemption
In the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members
In the sorrows of the Head.

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
’Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Fredrick Faber

Bob Cleveland said...

Fox:

By your standards, David wasn't a great man, either. And God called him a man after His own heart.

There are several obvious conclusions to be drawn from these two statements about two fallen and restored men.

martyduren said...

Foxy-
Apparently, our unnamed friend has experience a greater depth of mercy and grace than you have. It sounds as if you would that he spend the rest of his days wallowing in his sin and mistakes rather than "going and sinning no more."

I never find in scripture that "X" amount of repentance is necessary before forgiveness is complete. Perhaps you can share the penance the writer can perform before his absolution is complete? The number of "hail Marys" that he must say?

His forgiveness is complete; it was secured by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God and he need not live in guilt, not matter how great his sin, since condemnation by his conscience is overcome by the One who "is greater than our heart and knows all things."

I'm actually reminded of a Newsboys song, Dear Shame:

I catch you digging in my trash for stuff I've long thrown away. You bring it back on a tray.

And I hear you wheezing in the hall spreading germs and old news. You always love to confuse.

I flee the light just to live in your shadow. I'm needing mercy and you offer me blame.

Dear Shame:
You're oh so eager to toy with me.
You're always stealing the joy in me.
You love to whisper my name, Dear Shame, Dear Shame.

You've got me living like a bug, crawling in fear. (It's been a very long year.)

I dream of growing some wings, I think I'm flying away, then you point and you spray.

All my hidden secrets crave the light of forgiveness. You pull the
shades, you accuse and you blame.

Dear Shame:
I think I'm wise to your strategy. I won't be needing your company. My name's eternally clear, Dear Shame, Dear Shame.

Anonymous said...

Wade,

I am a naive young pastor. A pastor friend of mine was having problems with the people in his church. It shocked me one day when he said the church people would make comments to his teenage children.

What are church people thinking when they do this?

Scott

Charles said...

Scott,

It's my experience that folks who confront the minister's children do so because they don't have the GUTS to confront the minister.

bryan riley said...

Great post and great responses to Fox. Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all my sin. Grace, grace, Infinite Grace...

Oh how we need Him. There isn't a moment that my heart isn't on the cutting edge of grace. I love you, Lord, because You first loved me!

martyduren said...

Charles-
That is always true of bullies, eh?

curmudgeon said...

Fox - I suspect the brother might have a lot more to say about the whole situation than what we have read. Yes, I too grieve for the first wife (and first husband). I think there may be some glossing over in talking about the issue. But, I'm willing to give our brother the benefit of the doubt. I've heard terms like "deep repentance" so often I tend to retch. What does "deep repentance" even mean? Is there a "repentance scale"?

Scott - I'm glad for you to hear about this side of ministry in this forum rather than by experience. There are some really mean folks out there in the church. They tend to be cowardly bullies. I've met a few in my 30 years of pastoring. Along the way, when I've had those kind of folks in a church, I've made it abundantly clear that they are welcome to confront me and disagree with me all they want. But, involve my wife or my children, and I will first come to you personally and allow you opportunity for repentance. Then, I'll take your name quite publically before the congregation in business session and seek your repentance or removal. Unless the whole congregation has turned on you, nobody likes a bully, and nobody would want their family treated that way.

Wade- How often have we seen this pattern repeated? David Hansen in "The Art of Pastoring" suggests that pastors sometimes plunged into adulterous affairs to have an excuse for getting out of the ministry rather than being seen as a quitter. That's not a defense of sin, but a cogent observation.

Doug Shivers

Kevin Bussey said...

I think I know this man. At least I know someone with a similar story.

Yes, he is a good man. He has been a friend to me. We don't know what everyone is dealing with. He is remorseful. He is repentant.

My friend. You know God has forgiven you. Thanks for sharing your story so we can learn from it.

OC Hands said...

I continue to be amazed at the cruelty and hard-heartedness of Christians, church members and leaders. We are indebted to this man and Wade in many ways. His sharing about the steps that led to his infidelity should be a warning to every Christian, especially all leaders. The old song "It only takes a spark" applies to romance also. Too much attention given to vulnerable people can be mis-interpreted by them as well as watching church members (to say nothing of a watching world.)
But the cruelest of all are those church members who feel the need to inform the children of pastors about their misdeeds. The best scenario would be church members who took it upon themselves to pray for the children of staff members, and to befriend them, support them to show their appreciation for the work their parents are doing. But I suppose that would be too much to ask.

Charles said...

curmudgeon,

I appreciate the wisdom in your response to Scott. Thanks.

Wade Burleson said...

Fox,

The greatness is in God's grace. That's the point of the post.

What would you say of King David? Rahab? etc . . . The same? I would.

They all experienced the grace of God.

Wade

Wade Burleson said...

Good responses all.

Tonight my senior son, Kade, and his Enid High basketball team play the number two team in the state, Jenks, in a rematch of the 6A State Championship Football Finals.

I am the MC for a big auction fundraiser this morning for three of our largest charities in Enid, all run by our church members, and Rachelle and I we will leave immediately afterwards for Tulsa and the big basketball game.

As you know I do not moderate comments but due to my schedule I will be unable to remove any inappropriate comments or correspond with anyone on this string who asks questions. I am confident everyone will be gracious.

If you would like to read about my son and our missionary foster child, Jeff Adderley, and Enid High's big win last night you can do so here.

See you Sunday.

Kevin Bussey said...

Good luck,

You should be proud!

Wade Burleson said...

Until further notice, to comment will require identification. Blessings, Wade

Cecdaddy said...

Anonymous,

He did not "write some tearjerking letter to the blog world," he wrote a personal note to Wade in which he stated his sin, what came of it, and asked for clarification on a point in Wade's original post that stung.

Furthermore, he did not go to other pastors and his DOM for confirmation that his sin was okay, he went to them for assistance. It might have been good if they had taken it upon themselves to carry his burden with him, to help him from taking this sin from emotional/spiritual to physical.

I knew a pastor (not a friend or a pastor I personally liked) who was fortunate enough to have other pastors intervene on his behalf while his sin was still in the formative stage. They mandated counseling, time away from ministry, the cutting of all ties from the woman, and then kept him accountable to it. He is still ministering because they restored him gently, and he is a better pastor now than he was prior to the sin.

The letter writer does bear the responsibility for his sins, but it is too bad that his friends and DOM, who should be there to help him, only served to further isolate him and hurt him.

I wrestle with whether or not it is right for men who have failed in certain ways to continue in ministry, but we do need to ask ourselves what ends a person's usefulness to God. Is God able to restore a person who has fallen, are there certain sins that a pastor can recover from but others that are final? How big is our God?


Irreverend Fox,

I agree - I weep for his first wife, children, church, her husband and her family. I agree - the bigger issue is the end of a covenant, not the end of a career. It is wrong for us to focus on careers over our marriages. I even read a book in favor of divorced pastors that used an argument that a divorced pastor would be able to devote more time to their career than a pastor with a wife and family.

Much of your post was true, only it is hard to hear the truth through the tone of the writing. When we are not tempted by certain sins, it can be very easy to be callous and not understanding toward those who are tempted and who do sin from those temptations (I am making the gross assumption, based on your comments and language used, that this area is one in which you do not struggle.)

Fortunately for all of us, the Bible says that in Jesus, "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." Hebrews 4:15

If I read anything in the responses of others, and in Wade's response, it is an ability, or at least an attempt, to understand and be forgiving, an attempt at Christlikeness.

Steve A said...

The scene of church members confronting members of the pastor's family is so disgusting! Yet I have been in a place where people have done it and would do it again! That wife and those children never signed up for this kind of mistreatment.
These people remind me of Ghandi's statement that he would have become a Chrtistian except for the behavior of Christians that he had observed.

WTJeff said...

Fox,

Ever wonder why Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah? Ever wonder why Jesus' lineage runs through Perez, the offspring of an adulterous, incestuous relationship? IMHO, God is showing the depth, width, and length of His grace. Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven--for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

For us all to love much, we must realize that no sin is beyond us without the intervention of God's grace. I am capable of the worst sin imaginable, but through His grace, God uses me, not because anything I've done, but for the praise of His glory. Eph. 1:7-8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

This gentleman committed a sin that anyone reading this blog is capable of. It's only by God's sustaining grace that we all don't fall.

Jeff Parsons
Amarillo, TX

Grace_Reflected said...

Wade:
I noticed that the first time I commented here(though I read frequently) you chose to delete me. I did post as Anonymous since I didn't have an accout yet. Did I post outside of some parameter or was I deleted for other reasons?

Paul Burleson said...

I, like the rest of you, struggle with this thing of disqualification for ministry. [Meaning full-time pastoral ministry or deacon ministry.] There are good people on both sides which means, for me, a desire to hold lightly my own understanding with little dogmatism, since better people than I differ with me.

Having said that, I do wonder if there is ground, as I read one say, "they can no longer be of good report having failed in that manner" because I'm not sure there IS any "better report" than to have acknowledged sin, altered my behavior, and spent time away from ministry, all the while growing in grace and forgiveness both the getting and the giving of it. Then to build my family relationships with integrity during that time would be the "best report" any Graced-sinner could receive.

I'm not addressing the situation of our brother in the very personal e-mail sent to Wade, whom I admire and appreciate for his candor, as much as the idea of "A FAILURE" disqualifying.

Someone might say..."If that kind of failure happened he is no longer able to be a one woman kind of man which is necessary." I agree that IS necessary, but, if I read the scripture correctly, that, as are all the character qualities of 1 Tim/Titus, is in the PRESENT tense. I think the emphasis may be on where they are NOW that relfects qualification/disqualification. That "being a one woman kind of man" would disqualify a flirt if I see it correctly.

This is by no means saying EVERY person who fails SHOULD be restored to full-time ministry, there are far too many factors that would need to be examined. It would, of necessity, be a case by case situation. But I do believe a "no one should ever be restored to full-time pastoral ministry" concept is a bit beyond the text of the scripture itself. I say that cautiously and am open to further instruction from the Lord, but I have participated in the recovery and re-ordination of such an one. It was after much searching of scripture and examination on the part of myself, several Elders, and the fellowship as a whole. But it was done. There is a wonderful pastoral ministry being developed in this man's life at the present.

The one issue that we DO know is settled is that of our being willing to forgive one who has failed as we've been forgiven...that's a no-brainer. That's why I'm grateful for and would rejoice to serve the Lord in a fellowship with the man in the e-mail and his present family. I can say the same for the first family and would were the opportunity to be given. That's Kingdom stuff for all of us. Just some thoughts.

davidinflorida said...

Charles,

I do often wonder what Jesus was writing on the ground.

I also wonder, why when John 8 is quoted by the world and some Christians, that they usually don`t continue to the next few verses...

Jn 8: 9-11 Now when they heard this, they began to drift away one at a time, starting with the older ones, until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up straight and said to her," Woman where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She replied "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, " I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin any more."

CB Scott said...

Paul B.

Wise words.

cb

irreverend fox said...

Wade and others...I say that King David repented, acknowledged his sin and called it what it was...

I do not read that at all in this man's e-mail...I read excuses, white washing and of all things, finger pointing by him.

I do not hear, at all, remorse or grief about the sin and trauma it caused...I do read that in David's writing about what he did.

irreverend fox said...

If this man is saved then it is indeed by the grace of God alone...as is true with me and Wade and Marty and us all...

Bill Scott said...

Irreverant Fox,
I sure hope that perfect people abound in the church where you serve. I don't think you have room in your seats for the sinners in need of a Grace. Oh wait, I thought that was all of us.

I wonder though if you would be able to say the same harsh words to this man's face? Would you say them in such a manner to a church member involved in a moral failure.

I didn't think so.

You too will be judged by this same measure. Are you ready? Are you faultless and without blame in your ministry and personal life? I think your callous heart and harsh words demonstrates otherwise. Do you have a past? Have you been 100% transparent with your failures in such a way to make yourself vulnerable to the self-righteous? I wonder?

Drop your rocks Brother. You might have to put your eye out.

irreverend fox said...

Bill don't judge me.

Charles said...

There are few things that are sad and funny at the same time but I gotta say I'm cryin' for and laughin' at foxy right now.

irreverend fox said...

thanks Charles.

irreverend fox said...

I wonder if this man's ex-family and ex-church family would more or less agree with my assessment or Wades?

It is hard, for me, to be sympathetic towards the selfish, the home wrecker and the one who candy coats such things.

My sympathy lies with the family this man and women destroyed and the people whose lives and spiritual development were doubtlessly shook, violently, by this man and women and their selfish, adulterous, sin.

It's not as is this e-mail demonstrates the slightest level of remorse or recognition of (or use of the word) "sin". It’s full of justification, smoothing over, deflecting and dodging…and figure point at how HE was treated…

irreverend fox said...

FINGER...not figure...

Charles R. said...

Why can't you feel bad for all of them, foxy?

Why can't you hurt for the sinner as well as the sinned against.

How can you know whether or not he has met your standard of repentance just by his email to Wade? Just remember, it is your standard of judgement that God will mete out against you.

Bill Scott said...

Irreverant Fox,
You remind me of a young calf that keeps putting his nose on the electric fence again and again. He just can't seem to figure out why it hurts and everybody else shakes their head at such folly.

If it hurts don't do it. Your turn will come. Those rocks now in your hand will be zeroed in on your exact location, thrown by others with the same spirit as you now demonstrate.

Sit tight. Your time in the squeeze shoot is coming. Don't be surprised if it hurts.

irreverend fox said...

Charles,

amen…and I agree with you with fear and trembling.

remember the context...Wade assured this man "I would propose you are not a good man. You are a great man."

I disagree with Wades assessment and I am thankful that Wade welcomes those who at times disagrees with him feeling free to express there counter viewpoint.

Wade, I think you are wrong...but I say that as respectfully as I can. I believe there may be even thousands who have read this today and agree with me (although they may disagree with me even saying anything)...but fear the fire, sarcasm and judgment I've endured by voicing this strong yet I believe thought out and reasonable opinion.

AUJeff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Bussey said...

Fox,

I'm 99% sure I know this person. He is remorseful. I read it in the e-mail & heard it when he told me the story.

Yes, I am heartbroken for a family that was torn apart. But, Jesus said go & sin no more. That is what this man is trying to do. We need to forgive him too.

AUJeff said...

I don't think there is any more powerful way of demonstrating the character of Christ and the power of a changed life than when His followers share in extending His grace and forgiveness to the fallen.

I am a pastor who was the "victim" of an "adulterous affair." My wife shocked everyone with a scandalous relationship (an "adulterous affair")that would make national headlines if it were to happen today.

A few of the religious members of my church at the time wrote me off and plotted my termination while a few others sympathetically extended their pity. However, the staff and the majority of this wonderful body not only prayerfully supported and encouraged me as I continued to serve there - these people prayed that my wife("the villian" or "whoremonger")would repent, and they actively encouraged her return to her husband. They even prayed for her partner in this extramarital affair(...sorry, I meant "adulterous affair").

My wife did not repent and has had a series of partners since, but I will continue to honor the marriage vow I made to God.
Were it not for this Body demonstrating the character of its Head in their treatment of me AND my wife, I would have probably have turned my back on the church -especially the typical SBC church. I hope this man's wife and kids as well as this man were ministered to by a staff and a church like that!

Charles R. said...

I love clever book titles. One of the more clever ones is "Adventures in Missing the Point."

Some have taken Wade's point to be: "I would propose you are not a good man. You are a great man."

I would suggest stopping there is an adventure in missing the point.

The point, it seems to me is this quote of Wade's final sentence --

"It seems that to me that you now know experientially what we preachers all understand intellectually. Our only hope is God's grace. This is what makes you a great man. You cannot boast about your life, but you can boast about Christ. This is where we all should be."

Jim Paslay said...

Former Pastor said:

My family is changed forever, but is happy, and in many ways better off. God really is good as making all things work together for the good of my family.

How can a family be better off because of adultery and divorce? Those choices have disrupted the lives of many. The children on both sides of the divorce will carry emotional scars for years. Trust was broken and the death of a relationship occured.

On the other hand, can the two involved in the adulterous relationship receive forgiveness and cleansing? Yes! Can God fix that which was broken? Yes! Do the consequences of those disastrous choices go away quickly? No! They will be there for years to come. Can people move on from their selfishness and sin? Only by God's grace! Is the family better off? I don't think so.

Kevin Bussey said...

When are we going to stop parsing & disecting every word? If I wasn't a believer before reading this thread I might not want to after reading the self-righteous mess I've read here.

My former pastor friend I don't approve of what you did but I pray for you & your family. I pray you experience God's Grace.

irreverend fox said...

Kevin,

you're sounding self righteous to me actually.

It's amazing how people can be strong, black and white and sarcastic in the way they rebuke (what they see as) my "sin" of being “judgmental”...lol...y'all are doing to me the very thing you are rebuking me for...lol...you're as harsh with me as I am with him yet you all don't see a problem with that,...oh well...

But, honestly and sincerely… I join you in saying...

"My former pastor friend I don't approve of what you did but I pray for you & your family. I pray you experience God's Grace. "

Kevin Bussey said...

You got me. I am the chief of sinners. Praise God for His Grace.

William Madden said...

Dear Friends,

There is a side to this story that none may have considered. Not everyone marries well, and in my own opinion, sometimes, mismatched people deserve a second chance.

My biological parents were two such mismatched people. They divorced the first time when I was four years old, but out of a combination of love and guilt, re-married each other one year later. My sister (only sibling was born about two years after that).

Throughout my childhood and teen years, I endured the hardship of being caught between these mismatched parents. They had great difficulty getting along, and I often felt burdened in my role of having to negotiate a peace between the two of them.

Finally, when I was 24 years old, while serving as a journeyman in SE Asia, my parents divorced for the second and final time. I still remember the phone call I made to my Dad from Thailand to confront him about the situation. I had been angry, but I prayed before I called him, and somehow, as I heard the dial tone, all of the anger went out of me. I found myself offering my father words of compassion, and he responded by apologizing to me for all of the difficult years as he burst into tears.

Today, both of my parents are happily re-married, and I enjoy participating in both step-families. The experience I am relating to you goes against the conventional wisdom that divorce is always bad, but, quite honestly, I prefer my parents' divorce to being caught between them in a loveless marriage. So, it's not necessarily the case that divorce is always terrible for the children. I wish they had done it sooner, so that we could have begun the process of re-building our lives earlier.

Charles R. said...

I suppose the only one to successfully confront a Pharisee without becoming one Himself is Jesus.

irreverend fox said...

Charles,

you don't know me yet you refer to me as a Pharisee. that is a serious charge, one not based upon anything I've written, not today at least. I laid out a clear, cogent and compelling case...certainly strong and confrontational...but not unreasonable...as to why I disagree with my friend Wade and his judgment of this man's e-mail (and apparent character). No one here has yet dealt with any of my observations, rather, I've been judged, laughed at, mocked and called names.

Am I wrong because my observation is wrong or am I wrong for voicing it?

I think my observation is dead on actually. This man's e-mail was one long "what I did wasn't as bad as those judgmental people made it seem..." and you all know it. Bill Clinton expressed similar sentiments and I was equally disgusted by it.

So did my dad and I didn't buy his load either. This guy sounds like my dad actually.

Wade had permission from this guy and made this public so it was "fair game" for such hard, public scrutiny...and my scrutiny was dead on and such straight shooting upsets and makes most people very uncomfortable...I can't help that.

Had he expressed his grief for his sin and the hell he put his own kids through and how his heart is broken by the way he smashed the trust of the very people God placed under him, not just the trust they had in him but how what he did will effect the trust those people will have of every pastor they'll ever have again...had he expressed his shame of lying to his DOM...if the guy talked about the shame he brought to the church...the way in which he ruined his testimony to his neighbors, community and unsaved family...had the guy spoke of this situation in those terms...in the terms of “woe to me…I am undone…” repentance...then does anybody think I'd really "pile on"?

No…had that been the context and sentiment of his e-mail then I would have certainly not brought rebuke…not at all.

It's phrases like:

"My family is changed forever, but is happy, and in many ways better off."

that show me that he has not come to grips with what he has done.

Bill Scott said...

Irreverant Fox, you said:

"It's amazing how people can be strong, black and white and sarcastic in the way they rebuke (what they see as) my "sin" of being “judgmental”...lol...y'all are doing to me the very thing you are rebuking me for...lol...you're as harsh with me as I am with him yet you all don't see a problem with that,...oh well..."

I will take that to mean you understand just how "judgemental" your words are in this thread. I find it ironic that you squirm, wiggle and cry foul when you receive the same kind of scutiny.

Your tacit admission to your judgmental condemnations are weak at best.

Charles R. said...

I might have been referring to Kevin...but as grandpa said, it's the bit dog that yelps.

Charles R. said...

Michael Spencer over at Internet Monk made the following observation a couple of days ago on a similar but unrelated issue:

God is just as outraged, offended and wrathful at my pettiness, pride, laziness, lying, lust and gluttony as he is at my friend’s same sex relationship (if there is one.) The problem is, I LIKE my sins. Not as sin, but as behaviors that WORK for me just fine.

For most of us evangelicals, any type of sexual sin would fit into that statement. Bedroom sins make us more indignant and vitriolic than sins of injustice...sins where people are still "scr**ed over" its just that the perpetrator is able to cause harm with his pants on.

Steve A said...

Bro. Fox's response, as well as those coming back at him, remind me of riding a vehicle when my wife is driving.

Everyone who drives themselves 98% of the time has surely felt the loss of immediate control of the car. Isn't this especially the case when the woman is driving a big truck or SUV and the man is still getting used to seeing women drive such things? (Now, don't any of you men say anything right now 'cause You Know Who will hear of it!)

The way I tell her is, "I just don't trust your brakes."

Well, all of you guys try to understand this fellow writing, but you really don't trust his brakes, either. Brer Fox can't hear this man's brokenness, although Fox might be a mighty fine counselor were they alone together. (Your blog-posts about the lady living with a sinful husband were good.) Brer Rabbit and Brer Hound smell out the old testament character of Brer Fox's scorchments and naturally react.

(By the way, Brer Fox, your words weren't just Ezekiel; man, we're talking AMOS here! Kinda like your recent punishment-themed postings.)

I think all 'a y'all are speaking straight from the heart and be conductin' yersef's in the manner of gentlemen.

I'll jes' be sittin' up here on dissa fence made of tar with a naice smile on the front of my head!

Debbie said...

It's comments such as you have made irreverent fox that cause me to have an even deeper desire for a big change in the heart of many Southern Baptists.

JayLee said...

Many people who read/comment here have been hurt by adultery, especially in the lives of people who were supposed to protect or support us (Kevin's friend, Fox's father). I have. In fact as I read the post I was reminded of an older brother's affair several years ago. It rocked our family, his church and our small community. It was a long time before he acted repentant (he said he was sorry but continued the affair until his wife had all she could take and filed for divorce). My siblings were all angry with each other, alternately lashing out at my brother, the young woman he had the affair with or his wife. My parents even questioned if he was actually saved since it took him so long to acknowledge his sin. There was great hurt that led to great bitterness. No amount of repentance will ever erase the memory of his sin and what it cost. Eventually my brother married the young woman and now they have a lovely daughter. God has now restored my brother but it was His work alone.

I thought I had moved on until I was confronted by similar sin from my boss last year. Anger stirred in me. I was determined that my boss should face the most severe punishment. It finally dawned on me I was holding my boss accountable for my brother's sins.

I do not justify the sin of either man. Neither has "repented enough" by my book. Fortunately for all of us God doesn't read from my book. He stepped into our reality to bear the condemnation of our sins. Before we knew we were sinners He died for us so that now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Thank God for His grace. Thank God that He deals with us all not according to our sin but according to His great love.

While at Ravensbrook, Corrie and Betsy ten Boom witnessed the prison guards mercilessly beating a girl who urinated on herself while standing in formation. Both sisters were aghast. Both sisters were praying. Corrie prayed for the girl, that the beating would stop and she would be protected from more pain. While this was a good thing to do, Betsy instead prayed for those who beat her, that they would be healed and restored by the One who loved them enough to die for them. I don't know about you but I want to be a Betsy.

irreverend fox said...

Debbie...we must all submit to God's will as far as the direction and "heart" of the SBC...

because it is comments like yours and a few others that birth within me an even greater desire to see big change in the hearts of many Southern Baptists as well.

So you pray for people like me and I'll pray for people like you and then we'll just let God decide which perspective is closer in line with His will and then we'll let Him make changes where needed.

I will pray for your heart Debbie as I know you'll pray for mine.

(Again, I am amazed to see how some forms of “judgmentalism” is accepted by many and some is not. People can question my "heart" and sound spiritual but when I question the heart of an adulterer and adulteress people are "outraged". The double standard is clear. I again point out that not one person has dealt with my actual observation...they have only called me names, thrown sarcasm and questioned my "heart". It is fine to say, "Foxy, you're wrong...this guy has in this e-mail demonstrated a true understanding of the hell HE CAUSED and has expressed real grief of his sin and has not made excuses or pointed his finger: example A, B, C, D...that's fine and mature, but that has not been done. I have been sinned against on this thread, repeatedly.)

irreverend fox said...

hey Charles R, you said:

"I might have been referring to Kevin...but as grandpa said, it's the bit dog that yelps."

You're pretty cleaver.

Um...you "might" have been referring to Kevin. Who were you "actually" referring to?

irreverend fox said...

going over these posts again, to refresh in my mind the context and flow…

I do want to respond to my friend Marty.

Marty...you are right...this man, I assume, is justified by the grace of God.

My point was not that he has not met some crazy standard of repentance...it's just that when you've done something as truly awful, disgusting and destructive as he did and when you repent as David did, you don't gloss over things, point fingers, add qualifiers or attempt to justify.

I really question if this man sees what he did as “disgusting”. In his own word we read that his family is now “happy” and “better off”…that can’t be disgusting can it?

I do not think this poor man needs to wallow in endless despair at all. What kind of gospel is that? But I would look this man straight in the eyes and tell him based upon this e-mail to Wade I seriously question his understanding of what the word repent means. does it not mean to "change your mind" about an action?

Marty, thank you for not attacking me personally my friend.

Mary/Paul Burleson said...

Irreverent Fox,
I understand what you're saying. I agree. I also agree with Debbie. I think you guys are both coming from your perspectives. To me, that's somewhat the essence of Wade's blog.

I've been in both places. I've been hurt by an event and a person who failed morally, and very angry at those who offended in a similar way. I've also had problems, like Debbie, understanding others who can't seem to forgive.

Oddly and over time, both perspectives have helped me realize some things about myself and have given me the opportunity to self-examine and grow in grace and knowledge, just a speck, so far. Still in much need of growth.

My "beam" far too often clouds another's "splinter." Revisiting these perspectives brings my "beam" sharply into focus. God have mercy! (PB over my shoulder says, "God has already shown His mercy!" Oh, well, that's what I get for being in the Burleson family. ;-)

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to rethink and rehash this wonderful privilege of being a human being graced by grace.
Mary (not Paul, obviously)

TruthOfActs said...

Fox,
I’m not proud to jump on the majority side as one guy has his back against the wall fighting a crowd.
But has it ever occurred to you why everyone’s against you…that (as you say) “been sinned against on this thread, repeatedly”?

You quote Charles saying “it’s the bit dog that yelps”, and ask “Who were you actually referring to?” I think you’ve answered your own question.

Are you in the same boat as the woman who was ‘fighting’ her boss over his sin, when she realized it was the sin of her brother she hated?

Have you ever forgiven your father? If not, it will eat you into the grave.

I’m not condemning, I just feel sorry for you. “Alas, and did my Savior die for such a worm as I?”
Rex Ray

irreverend fox said...

thank you Mary.

Rex, I'll think and pray about what you said.

Rex, if you are right about my issues does that make me wrong in my observation about this man's e-mail and Wade's response?

Wade Burleson said...

Fox,

I have received another email from the brother of whom the post is about. I do not believe there is any question, and I mean any, that this man is broken and repentant over his sin. I appreciate your comments, and I too, have read by through the comment string. I think most people are coming to this situation through their own lenses of personal experience and hurts. I'm not sure that anyone intends to attack you personally. I think they are simply voicing their disagreement with your perceptions. I, for one, am grateful for the dialogue and have learned from reading everyone's comments.

We lost a very, very tough game last night to Jenks, Oklahoma 67-65. My son Kade had 18 points and 10 rebounds. He played fantastic but boy was he dejected afterwards. We are still in the playoffs, but must win two straight next Friday and Saturday to get to state.

I wish everyone a wonderful Lord's Day. I am leaving after church for a speaking engagment out of town and should post something late tonight.

Kevin Bussey said...

Fox,

If you felt I attacked you, I'm sorry and ask you to forgive me.

My wife has experienced what you have too. Her dad cheated on her mom and married the woman. My wife taught me Grace by the way she forgave him and led him to Christ 4 years ago.

I appreciate your stand. If I've attacked you, I'm sorry.

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade:

Guess I'll pile on a little. I might not have used the word "great" to describe him, but I wasn't writing the post. You were, and thus it would be your definition he'd have to fit. And I don't notice many other folks who name their specific sins in the past, as a warning to others, so I'm not in a position to quibble over your use of the word. Paul said we're not supposed to do that, anyway. At least he told Timothy to warn others about it.

Second, when I look at the episode of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, or the woman at the well, I don't see the sort of repentance and confession that some folks have pointed out was missing in the email you received. And if our reaction to his email is unlike Jesus' reaction to them, then we're not being Christlike.

I didn't worry about what he did or didn't say, but my thoughts about him weren't all that Christlike, either. God help us all.

irreverend fox said...

Kevin,

it's all good...as with everyone...I'm not personally "hurt"...I don't take things personally, not like things like this...I simply used the word "sin" to show hypocrisy basically of some.

you're my homeboy.

Thanks Wade, I'm glad that further clarification was given by the man and I wish nothing but the best for him...I pray that he will continue to allow God to fix that mess...what a great God we serve.

thank God that He has and is fixing my mess.

Paul Burleson said...

Fox,

To you and all others who have commented...I may be idealistic and a bit naive but...I think I've seen a little of what a family is all about. It's been a little like brothers/sisters sitting around confessing/confronting and being genuinely honest with each other. Each coming from where they have been and are, telling their perspective with emotion and all that goes along with being human, but winding up with the reality we're all redeemed humanity and in a family after all.

I said at the start that it may be idealistic, but I think it would good for us all to kind of "high-five" each other spiritually. That's not to say the pain/hurt by anyone's actions is minimized or removed. It certainly isn't sticking our heads in the sand about personal failure. But it is to recognize the great work of Christ on the Cross and the reality of an empty tomb on our behalf. Now with His love/aceptance for us secure, we can struggle through, like we're doing in this comment section, and go on with our love for each other and growing in our understanding of what it means to be "Graced people." [I said it's a bit naive. But, hey, it's what I think. :)]

Rev. said...

This man is not a great man. He is not a hero. He is a sinner. His only hope is in the Lord Jesus, who is the Great Man, the Great God, the Great Savior!

Kelly Reed said...

As Charles R. pointed out, I believe there is general confusion over this statement of Wade's by calling him a "great man".

Wade had said, "Our only hope is God's grace. This is what makes you a great man. You cannot boast about your life, but you can boast about Christ. This is where we all should be."

This man is not great for what he did, even for how he is living now, he is great only so far as he has experienced greatness being poured out on him.

This morning in my church, we celebrated the Lord's Supper--the Body of Christ was broken because of sin like this (and for mine no matter how big or how small) and the Blood of Christ was poured out to atone or cover over sin just like this.

Greatness has been applied to him. Greatness has been credited to him. The greatness of all that Christ is and has done for this man and for everyone in sin is what can be boasted of.

In spite of the pain his sin has caused in his own and other's life, because of the greatness of the Blood of Christ, he can still approach the Throne of Grace with Confidence. The Most Holy God still receives sinful men.

This man is great because he has experienced the greatness, the graceness of God, applied to him.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly

Bill Scott said...

Fox,

I read this scripture this morning in church and I thought about this thread:

Galations 5:14 For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” 5:15 However, if you continually bite and devour one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.

I think that I didn't object so much to what you said. I just objected to how you said it. I concede that my rebuttal was equally (deliberately) as brutal as yours. I thereby negated my point. Because of my tone, you closed your ears to anything I had to say. For that, I am sorry.

I pondered over your own hurt and I see where you would have very strong feelings to express. I guess I sided with the former pastor because of being accused of horrible things that were not true of me in the past.

I lay my sword at your feet.

Bill Scott

Cam Dunson said...

I was thinking just this morning that every action has a reason preceding it. That's why it's so easy for us to overlook and minimize our own flaws and sins and maximize those of others--we know the "why" behind our actions. We don't know the "whys" behind the actions of others and so we assume there are none.
I don't read books about history, but many of the folks in blogtown do. I suspect that alot of the content is the description of the "whys" preceding infamous actions.

Wade Burleson said...

Kelly Reed has caught the drift of my post. I believe there is none good or great but Christ Himself. His righteousness imputed to us gives us the greatness and goodness to which I refer. The world boasts of greatness in terms of deeds, accomplishments, looks, wealth and power, but in reality, nobody is great apart from Christ.

My post was to remind us that even those of us who are vile, wretched and sinful are declared and deemed co-heirs with Christ because of His Person, His work, His presence in us.

Thanks for all the comments.

wade

irreverend fox said...

to all:

I'm sorry that my strong, pointed and straight forward observation came off as "I would never do that..." or "I'm better than that wretch".

He is a wretched man and proved it. That is a true statement.

But equally true is I am a wretched man and I prove it as well.

My point was that in that e-mail I did not read what Wade was reading...I did not read about the grief of knowing how wretched he was...that was my point.

Wade cleared it up for all by letting us know that in a follow up e-mail the man went into greater detail about his recognition of the issue. That clears it up for me.

By no means do I feel any more worthy of salvation than anyone...I'm far too humble and theologically brilliant for such thinking.

jasonk said...

Fox,

Your attitude is appreciated, I'm sure. However, it seems to me that the difference between you and many others who offered comments on this blog is that their attitude is "when in doubt, forgive." Your attitude was "when in doubt, judge."

We are at a disadvantage because we do not know what is really going on in the hearts of others. Only God has the power to do that. So it seems to me that the best thing we can do is to be liberal with our forgiveness, not stingy. You were stingy.

And you called this man's wife a whoremonger, and him an adulterer! If God has forgiven them, what right do you have to re-file the charges against them? By saying the things you said, you were not merely being harsh, as you put it. You were rude. I cannot imagine calling another man's wife a whoremonger. You did the same thing you accused this man of doing--covering your own sin by calling your words harsh. They were worse than harsh. They were judgmental. Worst of all, you are elevating yourself above God. You said that after Wade clarified that this man was truly repentent, you said, "that clears it up for me." What difference does it make if it is cleared up for you? Who put you in that place? If God chooses to forgive, who are you to condemn?

Lee said...

Galatians 5:19-21 gives us a whole list of sins to consider, along with the statement that those who live like that will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Thank goodness I was able to put on Christ's righteousness at a point in my life when I did live like that. It didn't immediately stop my sin, in fact, I still struggle with that, but I did get me into the Kingdom, and it also provided me with the mind transforming power of the spirit so that I could begin working on living victoriously.

I sure couldn't have done either of those things on my own. I don't think anyone on this board could have, either.

rob said...

I have a friend in the ministry who has made it his personal crusade to put an end to divorce in the church. He has confronted many Pastors for performing marriages for divorced couples. He has alienated many of his peers by standing wholly on the Biblical standard: "I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness,and marries another woman commits adultery."

We have debated at length: showing grace, spousal abuse, alcoholism, drug abuse, non-christian spouses, etc. His view is simply this: Jesus Christ spoke those words. How can an inerrantist truly believe divorce and remarriage is acceptable in any case except infidelity on the part of the spouse?

I've read this thread with interest. My selfish heart is comforted by the knowledge that there are so many readily willing to exhibit grace toward my sin. I pray I will always do the same. However, I also worry that our fear of "judging" those around us may sometimes keep us from speaking up and preventing the damage that is ultimately done. What if this pastor's friends had responded strongly to his initial plea for help? What if they had forcefully held him to the standard Christ laid out? He probably wouldn't have liked it much. We never like being rebuked. But ultimately two families might have been spared the ravages of divorce.

As has already been pointed out, we all view these thing through our own lenses. My personal experience is this: When a friend (a deacon and parent of one of my youth) chose to walk out on his family and pursue a relationship with another woman, he told me that no one should have to be saddled with a nagging wife and that he was sure that God just wanted him to be happy. My answer to him was that I felt that the joy found in a relationship with Christ didn't always equate with "happy" on the human scale. I don't think God always wants us to be "happy." I think God always wants us to be obedient.

My friend hasn't spoken to me since. He had a series of girlfriends and recently got married. His daughter, now in her 20's, still bears weeping wounds beacuse her father never came and apologized for his actions. This man is active in another church and is quick to point out how much more gracious they were than us.

I know where Fox was coming from at the beginning. I was upset with his tone, but at the same time- due to my experiences- I was very suspect of real repentance.

I'm not sure this long post has a point other than to ask that all of us be conscious of our call to show grace while at the same time accepting our resposibility of holding our brothers and sisters accountable for their actions.

David L. Miller said...

I know this comment stream has probably run dry, but I am concerned by the comments many made. I read this man's letter just as Fox did. I saw explaining and justification and excuse but little real repentance. then I saw Fox vilified for not extending grace. But grace cannot be experienced without repentance. I don't know the man's heart, but I see a man blaming others for his problems, like many I counsel, instead of confronting his own sin.

jasonk said...

Mr. Miller, I would say the same thing to you that I said to Irrev Fox, why do you rush to judge, rather than rush to forgive?

I am surprised that someone who has so freely and so frequently drank from the cup of grace would require so much of another, to be forgiven.

Anonymous said...

Hello all,

Like many of you, I read this thread with geat interest.

Fox, I think I understand where you are coming from. We get so caught up in the things of grace sometimes that we forget that the law is of God as well--that it is good, and that not one jot or tittle of it will pass away until all is fulfilled.

That is because sin is terrible, harmful, hurtful to all involved, causues horrible damage, and bad fruit. Our sin causes such harm to the cause of Christ. We must fear to sin, flee from it and realize the cost of what we have done. Sin still hurts, and the consequences remain. The fruit is still there and the damage is still done. Grace does not mean we are free to sin...it means a loving Savior can--and will--"restore the years the locusts have eaten" and come to our aid as we turn back to Him.

That said...God will restore the life and even a ministry for this man as he seeks Him. Of that I have no doubt. That is grace and love deeper than we can understand. The scars of sin remain, but the healing of grace will be evident to all to the glory of Jesus Christ.

That is the beauty of grace---how Christ works to turn even our failure to glory.

Sorry, Wade, that this post is so long. I guess I am making up for not posting for so long.

Grace and peace to all....

Greg Cloud
Victory Baptist
Muldrow, OK

TruthOfActs said...

Grey Cloud,
Been missing you. I wasn’t going to tell this story because it’s sad. Pray we learn from the scars of sin of others and not our own.

Many years ago, a wife divorced our young ASSOCIATE pastor because she was tired of church life. Our pastor said as long as he did not remarry he could remain. Three years later he was removed because he remarried.
Soon afterwards, I was shocked to hear a deacon read a letter of resignation from the best pastor I ever had. (We were the same age.) The fired associate had told the deacons what happened when our pastor counseled his wife not to divorce him.

For years, he could not get another church until a hundred of us signed a paper that we would trust him. Even though his wife stayed with him, grief in many ways shortened his life.
His son said he was going to kill the deacons, and became the head drug dealer of his high school.
He could not attend his father’s funeral because he was in prison. Two years later, he joined his father by way of suicide.
I had been his soccer coach when he was 12, and the tears at his funeral revealed the price of sin.
Rex Ray