Years ago a pastor in a large church called me to discuss his daughter’s substance use disorder. He was very concerned that if his congregation found out about his kid’s “issues” it would negatively impact his ability to lead. He quoted a passage of scripture that spoke to the requirements of a church leader:
“So the church’s supervisor must be without fault. They should be faithful to their spouse, sober, modest and honest. They should show hospitality and be skilled at teaching. They shouldn’t be addicted to alcohol or be a bully. Instead, they should be gentle, peaceable, and not greedy. They should manage their own household well – they should see that their children are obedient with complete respect, because if they don’t know how to manage their own household, how can they take care of God’s church?”
1 Timothy 3:2-5 CEB
His concerns were warranted. It turns out that during his brief tenure at this church he had himself used this same passage to dismiss several deacons who served on the church’s deacon board. He had been quite proud of his integrity in these situations. He had even spoken about his leadership style and these particularly tough calls at a pastor’s conference.
Now he was having a crisis of faith. Did he need to resign his position? Was his daughter’s substance use issue a reflection on his ability to manage his home? He was also eaten up with guilt. One of the deacons dismissed from service was a guy whose own son had committed suicide related to his struggle with opiate addiction. Why in the world, he mused, had he thought it was a good idea to kick a father when he was already down for the count? All good questions.
I didn’t know what to say to him so I asked for some time to pray and process. Something was bugging me about the application of that scripture and I needed to consider the matter at length. I also questioned whether I was his best source for information; my interest lay primarily with his daughter and family. But the challenge of trying to figure out how that scripture might fit into this situation intrigued me and we both decided that I could at least take some time to see what I came up with for feedback.
My experience with faith is that when I am confused it is often the result of not understanding a spiritual principle (or three) that would help me sort out a confusing text. I can only speak for myself, but as a general rule, God makes sense; God is not chaotic. God is also mysterious and let’s be fair — the scriptures are not the easiest of reads.
Have you ever found yourself in a position of having a personal crisis disrupt your own strongly held theological beliefs? What did you do?