I was sadden to hear the news of Gary Lamb’s departure from ministry. He planted and pastored Revolution Church in North Georgia. He has stepped out of ministry after confessing an affair with a staff member at his church. I have prayed for Gary, his family, and his church. I have never met him, but he is my brother of Christ and a fellow church leader. I share in the sorrow of this man’s sin.
I do not have any judgment for Gary. He is a sinner, but so am I. When I see the public sin of others, I do not see righteousness in me. The public sin of others causes me to see my own sin and it reminds me that life in Christian ministry, life in the Church that Jesus is building, is life among losers and perverts.
We are all losers.
We are all perverts.
We are all sinners.
We have all lost in the game of moral superiority.
We are all perverted and twisted by our fallen human nature.
We have all sinned and fallen short, way short of God’s doxa, his glory.
Sin is the problem with humanity. And the root of human suffering, evil, and struggle is some kind of sin. There’s are a whole lot of people suffering from the disease of conceit. Whole lot of people struggling tonight from the disease of conceit. And not just conceit but greed, lust, envy, and the like. Sin twists and perverts humanity into something ugly and devoid of life. God’s creation is good. It is pristine and beautiful. Sin comes along like a silent vandal and smears the splendor of humanity with pollution and corruption.
There was a time in my spiritual journey when I was uncomfortable calling myself a sinner, let alone a “loser” or “pervert.” I thought that if I was the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21), then it would be an offensive to the cross to call myself a sinner. Didn’t Jesus die in order to forgive the unrighteousness of sin in us and make us righteous? (I am looking forward to exploring this issue soon in N.T. Wright’s new book on justification.) If I am righteous then doesn’t calling myself a “sinner” disrespect the work of Christ as he suffered and died on my behalf?
So for a time in my spiritual journey, I would not call myself a sinner. No sir. I was the righteousness of God in Christ. I had right standing with God by grace through faith. While this was true (and is true), it was just not complete; it was not the whole story.
Am I righteous? Yes
Am I a sinner? Yes
As followers of Christ, we have to live in this tension that while we have right standing with God (i.e. righteousness) we are still sinners who sin. If we only focus on the righteousness we have received by God’s grace, we can easily become proud and ignore our struggles with sin. If we admit our weakness, our frailty, our status as losers and perverts then we are in a better position to grow in grace and open ourselves up more to the Spirit’s work of transformation.
Really, we need to see the saintliness in others and the sinneriness in ourselves. (I may have created a new word here.) And our response to a clear vision of our sinneriness shouldn’t be self-loathing. We should respond with confession and repentance.
Confession is saying the same thing, i.e. calling sin what God calls sin.
Repentance is telling God how, by his grace, we are going to live differently.
A lifestyle of confession and repentance is how we do life together among losers and perverts. We do not hide our sin, ignore our sin, rationalize, spiritualize, or justify our sin. We openly confess and repent. These spiritual practices become tools in the hands of the Holy Spirit who is transforming us to reflect the image of Jesus (the only non-loser in all humanity) for the joy of God the Father.