Christian author and preacher Max Lucado has warned both evangelical pastors and Catholic priests caught up in sex abuse that God has harsh words for them in the Bible.
Max Lucado, a best-selling author who preaches at Oak Hills Church in Texas, wrote in a Sunday op-ed for Fox News that the clergy scandals and deception that have recently been revealed “takes its toll on the heartiest of souls.”
“It is my desire to address the question many of us find ourselves facing at some point in life. When a leader lets me down, what do I do with the hurt?” he positioned.
“Even deeper, at risk is our faith in God; if not His existence, at least His goodness. How could God allow this to happen? To be clear (and we must strive to be clear), God has strong words for pastors who purvey pain upon His people,” he reminded.
He quoted from Ezekiel 34:2-10 in the Bible, where God condemns church leaders who have ruled with “harshness and cruelty” and have abandoned their flock.
“Though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. … I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock,” the passage reads in the part.
“I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey.”
Max Lucado reflected that the words “could hardly be harsher,” and that God sets a high standard for His leaders.
The preacher mentioned the Pennsylvania grand jury report last week which found that over 300 Catholic priests in the state sexually abused over 1,000 children over decades as one example of priestly abuse.
“News of the grand jury report, on top of earlier reports going back years about members of the clergy using their positions to become sexual predators, brings us face to face with one life’s hardest questions: what do I do with a violated trust?” he wrote.
“Whether the perpetrator be a priest, a pastor, a rabbi or an evangelical leader, the struggle is a real one. When those who promised to nurture my soul bruised it, when those committed to taking care of me took advantage of me, how do I respond?”
On the evangelical side, one major recent scandal has been the allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse against Willow Creek Community Church founder and former senior pastor Bill Hybels.
While Hybels, now retired, has maintained his innocence following multiple accusations from women earlier this year, the entire elder board of the Illinois megachurch recently resigned after admitting it was wrong to initially believe Hybels rather than the women.
Max Lucado argued in his op-ed that ministers, like all people, are expected to slip and sin, but at the same time they must remember that they have a “holy responsibility and a high calling.”
“Yet, let all believers be reminded, for every clergy person who violates a trust, there are thousands who guard it jealously. For every religious leader who stumbles, there are thousands who serve faithfully, carefully, and lovingly. This is no time for blanket dismissals,” he added.
“There is no perfect pastor or priest, except one. We, in the Christian faith, have found Jesus Christ to be exactly that.”
Other major pastors, such as Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, have also recently opened up about the expositions of sinful behavior of Christian leaders.
“It is a great disappointment to me when a pastor falls,” Laurie told The Christian Post in an interview.
“A pastor needs to be a good example. He is a spiritual leader. People expect pastors to live morally and to be honest. That is a realistic expectation. They expect it of Christians, certainly they have that expectation of a Christian leader.”
As for whether the scandals are hurting moral authority of the evangelical Church, Laurie said that they “certainly don’t help.”
“It is right to expect our leaders, especially Christian leaders, to practice what they preach, as they say. But, on the other hand when a leader falls, it should never cause you to doubt your faith because our faith should never be in a leader, present company included,” he told CP.
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