The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b
Most of the church conflicts into which I get called are swirling (at one level or another) around a pastor. And most of the opposition parties I meet eventually get to a point in the conflict where they are saying, “We never should have called him as our pastor…we made a terrible mistake.” And that conclusion is always based upon a (sometimes very long) list of flaws which, in their eyes, disqualify him/her as their shepherd.
It always reminds me of the life of Israel’s most effective King…King David, the “man after God’s own heart”. So much of God’s story in this world was written through David’s life…so much scripture…so much poetry…so much history…it is hard to imagine anyone being used more profoundly by God. His passion was extraordinary, his love for God immeasurable. His leadership was undeniable, and his lineage would produce the Savior of the world. Not a bad spiritual resume, if you ask me.
Did I mention his poligamy? His adultery? The murder? The “divorce” from his first wife (she apparently had a problem with his dancing in the streets in his underwear), the attempts by his father-in-law to kill him, and the subsequent re-marriage to her? Did I mention his eight other marriages (and that number is just the number of wives whose names we know…there were apparently many others whose names are not mentioned in scripture)? How about David’s first son’s rape of his half-sister…followed by her brother’s murder of that same son in retaliation? How about the attempt by that second son to overthrow David’s reign as king? Did I mention that David’s own men would subsequently kill that second son as well?
In short…David’s house was a mess! His life was a mess. And his “kingdom” was as conflict-ridden as any imaginable. So, as I am reading through this muck and mire which David called a life, I could not help but wonder…how do you think David’s resume would fair in your church’s next pastor search process? For that matter, how about Peter’s resume? Or Hosea’s? I think you get the picture.
At some point, we as Christ-followers have to come to grips with the fact that God’s ways of testing the heart of a leader are pretty different from ours. We have to embrace the sheer magnitude of God’s grace and His ability to write His story through the lives of horribly flawed people with horribly flawed lives and horribly flawed families. Indeed, we must acknowledge that God’s purposes for his/her leadership may well be served best in our situation BECAUSE of those “flaws”, and not just in spite of them. Those “flaws” may bring exactly the perspective God wants in his/her leadership for a specific place at a specific time. I have said often that I never want to be pastored by a shepherd who does not know personal turmoil or tragedy. It has a way of bringing “perspective” to my own turmoil.
So, does that mean we must rejoice in all our leaders’ flaws? No, not necessarily. But it does mean we do not have the privilege of writing them off merely because of those flaws. We must learn to recognize that, when God calls a leader to a task, He does so with full knowledge of that leader’s “flaws”. In short, we must learn true spiritual discernment…and not just some worldly version of measuring leaders.
Tall order, I know. Then again, if it were easy, everybody would be doing it already. Right?