Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lenten Reflections, Day 4: Give Up Independence

This morning I am continuing to read a new book by a pastor who I deeply respect. I am also reading Facebook comments by his colleagues, and several seem to believe that he should be “purged” from the denomination or at least harshly corrected for his views on a very difficult and controversial issue.

I applaud this pastor’s courage in writing this book. Like others who have stepped out and opened up a public conversation on challenging topics, he will undoubtedly feel the fire of opposition. And, in our culture, disagreement can be vitriolic and painful.

You see, we evangelical Christians no longer burn our perceived heretics at the stake. We just set out to ruin them.

But I continue to admire this pastor’s courage. Rather than cut himself off from those who might disagree with him, he has chosen to speak in the midst of his “friends,” making himself vulnerable to whatever might come next. He has, in effect, operated in the context of dependency by giving up his right to independently carve out his own way in ministry. He still plans, from what I can tell, to pursue a particular course of pastoral action, but seeks to do so as one dependent upon his relationships with others in a world of shared ministry.

In the end, he just might find himself excluded from his denominational family. I hope not, but it remains to be seen. He might not seek independence, but it might be thrust upon him. In the meantime, he has cast himself upon the possibilities that mutual dependence in pastoral ministry will allow for civil and reasonable discussion.

I wish I could be less cynical about the outcome. But I wish this pastor well.

I think I’m learning something here. I sometimes want to independently make my voice heard, letting the chips fall where they may. I’m learning that I live in a world of mutually dependent relationships, and speaking my mind in a context of shared vulnerability allows correction and maturity to take place, even when I don’t want it. When I run off independently, I start believing that I don’t require any form of accountability or correction, and that’s a mistake.

It’s a dangerous business, this recognition of dependence. One hopes for care and nurture, but sometimes pain and exclusion are the result. I suppose that the possibility of pain is embedded in vulnerability, just like the way that the possibility of martyrdom is embedded in the commitment to follow Jesus.

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