In case you missed it, here are some recent articles I’ve written:
A. W. Tozer famously said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” Maybe this is what Paul was referring to when he told the believers at Corinth that God uses the comfort we receive in times of trial to comfort others (2 Cor 1:4). Comfort, I learned, is not a five-step process and it doesn’t come quickly … or easily. Read the Psalms and hear the lament of men like David who longed for God to come near, to hear the pain, to usher in hope. Hear the wails of Job, the most righteous man on earth, as he scratches around for some fragment of faith. Or Jeremiah, the weeping prophet. Or Isaiah, a man of woe.
This isn’t to say that spiritual friendship doesn’t mean applying Scripture and encouraging the act of prayer. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point people to the hope of their resurrected Lord. But genuine, Christ-like empathy doesn’t push people through a spiritual assembly line. Instead, it drips with grace, is spoken through tears, and comes wrapped in the patient presence of brotherly (or sisterly) love.
Forgiveness is not ancillary to spiritual leadership. It’s vital. A leader’s ability to forgive others directly impacts his ability to lead others. I’m convinced of it, not only from the life of Joseph who became a wise and capable leader in Egypt.
I had to forgive those who had hurt me deeply not only for my own personal spiritual growth, but also because I had a congregation of people watching me. How could I preach of the forgiveness Christ offers and yet harbor bitterness in my heart? How could I help my people apply the gospel to their own relational struggles if I ignored what the gospel was telling me?
I’ve seen bitterness tear at the heart of a leader and poison his leadership. I’ve seen it up close in ministry and I’ve read about it in countless biographies. Look closely at tyrannical leaders–in ministry, in government, in business, anywhere—and you’ll find a common trait. Somewhere in their past was a deep hurt that wounded them so deeply they couldn’t move on. Bitterness and cynicism became embedded in their psyche, making them insecure and power-hungry.
When we can’t or won’t forgive, we communicate something other than the gospel we claim to declare. We say, with our lives, that God is less than all-powerful and that our circumstances are outside of his control. What’s more we offer a limited gospel, one that only heals certain kinds of pain. Ultimately, we lead our people away from the living water their hearts crave.
Beautiful Orthodoxy matters because of both words. Beauty originates, not with the artists and poets who stir our emotions with their work, but with the Creator who created us to create. Beauty, regardless of the intent of its human maker, always points back to the Triune God, the original artist and craftsman. And orthodoxy matters because it is the body of truth passed down from generation to generation, through 2,000 years of church history, that tells us about ourselves, how we relate to God, and about the world. To wed the two: beauty and orthodoxy is what Christianity Today does best. Holding fast to “the faith once delivered to the saints” and communicating this in a way that tells the beautiful story of salvation history in Christ.