My pastor friend in Mexico has done an excellent job in working through the problem of having me come for a series of meetings. After another round of talks with his pastor friends, they are okay currently with me speaking, though I won’t be speaking at one church because I’m divorced.
This issue is not something for Christians to respond in anger. Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians 13, as he laid out how to respond to those who have unbiblical perspectives; he said knowledge leads to arrogance but love builds unity.
Though you or I may have knowledge about this matter, to beat our collective chests while looking down on those who have training in legalism would be sinful. We hold our perspectives with humility and love, not with condescending attitudes.
I sent this email, below, to my friend in response to the “dust-up” because he asked for my perspective on this issue. Part of my response to him addressed the idea of a sinner teaching behind a pulpit, which is a big deal for these pastors.
Different But Unified
Thank you for your thoughtful email. We are not struggling in any way. All is well with our souls. We will do whatever you want us to do. I do not want to be a stumbling block to anyone in Mexico, so if not coming will accomplish this right goal, then I do not wish to teach in your area.
But if everyone is “in faith” for our visit, then let’s do it. I would only ask that I be used in all possible ways because I’m not looking for a vacation. I go to meetings and conferences to work hard, not to relax, and I want you all to get the most from us. Our joy is to serve, not for you to serve us (Mark 10:45).
As for divorce? I believe Paul told Timothy that a pastor must have no more than one wife. I have only one. My first wife committed adultery and two years later dissolved the marriage. I did not divorce her. I sought reconciliation right up until the judge pronounced us divorced, and it’s a matter of court record that I was against it. I was clear on that matter.
She then married, divorced, and remarried a third time before I ever met and married Lucia. My first wife is no longer my wife, and I only have one. Though I was a pastor for five years, I am not now. I do not see myself as disqualified from being a pastor, though I do not believe the Lord has called me to pastor at this time. I have no desire for the noble office.
Missional Christians Teach
There is no teaching that I’m aware of that says I cannot teach Christians God’s Word. God redeemed me by the power of His Word. I’m also not aware of any forgiven sin that disqualifies a Christian from teaching God’s Word to other Christians. Doing so is at the heart of the great commission.
As for the pulpit? It’s not sacred; it’s a piece of wood (or metal) that some folks use as a means to hold their Bibles, notes, and water bottles. God dwells in people, not in inanimate objects. People are spiritual. Preaching is a spiritual event. The context is not relevant since any context is acceptable for sharing God’s Word, i.e., wood, rock, metal, or nothing at all.
I said the following on my family blog, which I write as an oral commentary on our family’s lives so our friends can see the “other side” of our lives, not just the ministry side of things.
Ironically, it would have been “better” if I had murdered my ex-wife rather than her divorcing me. (I say this in hyperbolic jest only, as I have no ill-will toward her.) But sometimes you can’t choose the sins that follow you through life. I just happen to have the “leprosy sin” of divorce.
I am aware that some folks have a weak conscience on this matter of divorce (1 Corinthians 8:1-13), which is why I would rather not come than to cause one of my brothers to stumble.
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8:13
Therefore, if [divorce] makes my brother stumble, I will never [teach to them], lest I make my brother stumble. – RLTV
I’m at your service. You tell me what you want me to do, and I will do it. But if I do come, I request that you fill up our time helping others.
Grace and mercy to you, my friend.