If you haven’t heard the news yet, last Sunday (6-21-15) Tullian Tchividjian officially resigned as the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, after announcing he engaged in an extramarital affair. I must admit that I was shocked and deeply saddened by the news. In the few days since the news first broke, the blogosphere has been flooded with posts examining various factors which may have contributed to Tullian’s moral failure. Doubtlessly, there were many factors involved. For instance, Tullian (to his discredit) was all too quick to point out that his wife’s martial infidelity played a role in his own affair (see his statement to the Washington Post). Also, those who claim that Tullian is both an Antinomian and Law/Gospel Reductionist (a claim I am not convinced of) are saying that his theological error led to his moral failure. Others have pointed out that the “celebrity pastor” model is intrinsically flawed and leads to these kinds of failures. I cannot pretend to know what factors actually contributed to Tullian’s failure. While I don’t doubt that all of the above mentioned contributed in some way, they are all ultimately transitory to the central issue of human sin.
Orthodoxy does not equal orthopraxy. No matter how orthodox we may be, no matter how much we hear or preach Law and Gospel, no matter how often we partake of the Sacrament, Original Sin still dwells within us and constantly strives to manifest itself through us. Because of this, it is absolutely imperative that we strive to “by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body” as Paul said in Romans 8:13. However, we fail—I fail—to do this everyday in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Before God, Tullian and I are exactly the same—sinners who desperately need Christ. However, before the world Tullian and I are not the same. Tullian’s vocation of pastor, being in particular a pastor with notoriety, placed him in a different position before the world than most Christian laypeople and to a certain extent other pastors. Tullian did not just sin against God, or his family, or the other person involved in the affair, but he sinned against his entire congregation and even the entire Christian Church. Before the world, Tullian has completely wrecked his testimony, credibility, and most likely his chances of ever pastoring again. Yet, there is forgiveness for this sin from God and from the Church.
I have been in different churches where pastors have failed morally. Some of which even committed the same sin as Tullian. Over the years I’ve learned that pastors are sinful human beings like everyone else. I know from their lives that there is healing and forgiveness. However, the most important lesson I have learned from their failings is that there is only one sinless Pastor, Christ. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11, ESV). Right now Tullian and his family desperately need this sinless Shepherd who laid down His life for them.
Tullian preached a message of scandalous grace and now because of his actions grace has become a scandal. Yet, for grace to truly be grace, it can only be such. Sin is a dangerous and dirty business. It destroys lives and relationships, pastors notwithstanding. They are also born sinful human beings. That is no excuse for their sin or my sin. Both clergy and laypeople are called to resist the temptations of Satan and the sinful flesh. However, the sad reality of being a sinner is that we fail to do this, despite our best efforts. Yet, Christ has overcome sin. Therefore, let us cling to Christ who offers us both His pardon and His power to overcome it. I will pray for Tullian and his family. I will pray for his repentance and restoration. Moreover, I will pray for myself, knowing that I am probably a far worse sinner, even the chief of sinners.