I don’t even know how to intro this, so I’ll just get to it. My heart has been heavy for a couple weeks now about all of the blog posts and articles surrounding Sovereign Grace Ministries. These articles have definitely been going on longer than a few weeks, but I’ve been out of the blog world for a while. If you don’t know anything about this, then I promise my feelings won’t get hurt if you stop reading now. Otherwise, let’s get going.
The first post I saw concerning this issue was from Tim Challies, who I’ve come to respect over the past couple years. Then I read a couple of responses from Joy Bennett, here first and then here as a response to some people’s objections to her first post. I’ve grown from reading Joy’s posts and seeing her authenticity in Life: Unmasked as well as joining her in writing unmasked. So, I read Challies saying he’s basically staying out of it, and then I read Joy (and others) calling on him to stand for the abused and oppressed. Then I read another blog about how the women of the church have fulfilled the role of Satan in “accusing the church” over this issue. Then Elora writes about how she feels God calling them to stand firm on this issue.
Then the Christianity Today articles:
- Sovereign Grace Ministries: Courts Shouldn’t ‘Second-Guess’ Pastoral Counseling of Sex Abuse Victims
- Lawsuit Charges C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries with Covering Up Child Sex Abuse
- Child Abuse Lawsuit Against Sovereign Grace Ministries Adds Names and Charges
After reading all of that, and much more, it’s beyond convoluted. If I am correct, the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries initially charged some members with covering up the sexual abuse of children, and was later amended to add new defendants and plaintiffs as well as charges of direct involvement in addition to covering up the abuse.
Why I’m Writing This
As I said, my heart is heavy. So heavy that I debated on even writing this, because I don’t want to be another voice that could cause dissension. Yet, last night my pastor preached on Nehemiah 5:1-19 as part of the series on Nehemiah we’ve been going through. So, it had no direct correlation with the issues surrounding SGM, and was heavily focused on the city of Dallas during the sermon. Yet, the words pressed on my heart so much that I have to put them on paper.
In the interest of keeping this post as brief as I can, I’m not going to post the whole text here, so feel free to look that up. If you don’t have a Bible, you can look it up online at ESVBible.org.
Background on Nehemiah
The book of Nehemiah is about some of the Israelites returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls around the city. Chapter 5 covers a time of famine because of overpopulation. While some of the Israelites were rebuilding the wall, they weren’t able to work the land to grow food and grapes for wine, etc. But the wealthy who did have time to work the land and vineyards, instead of giving what they had to their brothers and sisters or even giving them a fair interest rate, they took the children of their own countrymen as slaves. Not the normal indentured servanthood that we would deem acceptable in Biblical times, and they didn’t even honor the Year of Jubilee and set the slaves free then.
The Text: Implications and Application
Please, read Nehemiah 5:1-19 for the full context.
Nehemiah 5:1 ESV
Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers.
This passage doesn’t waste any time. It gets to the heart of the issue by showing the heart of the people. They are crying out to their leaders and crying out to God because of the injustice being forced upon them and their children. Nehemiah points out that is wasn’t just the men crying out, it was the women, too! When you have children, sons and daughters, suffering, you can expect women to speak up about it, especially if the men don’t.
I’m all for Complementarianism, but Nehemiah didn’t rebuke the women for speaking up. He listened to them. So should we.
These Israelites aren’t crying out against Gentiles. They are crying out against the injustice committed by their own people.
stand against God’s people to combat injustice.
Nehemiah 5:6-7a ESV
I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials.
The first of Nehemiah’s reactions we see is anger. Not sinful anger, but righteous anger at seeing God’s people being oppressed by God’s people. Then he takes time to think, pray, and probably calm down some. Then he brings charges against the nobles and officials.
system of justice should correct the problem.
Nehemiah 5:9 ESV
So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?
Nehemiah hits right to the core with this one. Whatever else was going on, whatever injustice occurred, the issue at hand is the glory of God. The reason for walking in fear of God was to prevent the taunts of their enemies. But, who were they going to taunt? Surely, they may taunt the people, which reflects poorly on the glory of the God they serve. But they may also make accusations against God. “They claim Him to be all powerful and loving and good, then why do they treat each other this way?”
Missing the Forest for the Trees
The thing about this passage is that while Nehemiah is dealing with all of this, the building of the wall stopped. The advancement of the kingdom of God stopped. In our case with SGM, we stop advancing the gospel because we are too busy defending or criticizing positions.
Yes, there should be an outcry about this! But we have to keep the gospel at the center of the issue. Our focus in wanting this resolved has GOT to be so that the gospel can go forth once again. If your purpose for writing about this is to jump on the bandwagon to further your own agenda about gender roles (regardless of the position you hold), then, please, for the love of God, stop talking. This can’t be about that. And as important as fighting injustice is, we see in the text that the reason we do it is for the glory of God, so the world will see the glory of God made manifest. That’s why we cry out! If our only concern about these tragic allegations is injustice, then as noble as that cause is, it isn’t big enough.
We can fight injustice all we want, and we should, but only the gospel going forth will change the hearts of those involved.
But there are those whose hearts are for the gospel. Those who feel the Spirit pressing them to speak; to stand for the broken, abused, and oppressed for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God. And they should follow the Spirit and speak.
And, if you feel like you should stay silent, like Challies does, if that is where the Spirit really leads you, then you should follow that lead. Even if others disagree.
(Please know, I didn’t have anyone in mind when I wrote the above. So, if the Spirit is pressing that on you, please, take time to thing and pray it over. If we are in Christ, we are all family, regardless of views on peripheral issues. It’s not my heart to attack anyone, but it is my heart to try to illumine where I feel this may have gone off track. If the Spirit doesn’t press you, then take my words with a grain of salt.)
Message to SGM:
I don’t even know if anyone remotely associated to SGM will read this, but here is what I have to say anyway.
Please, for the love of Christ and the glory of God, be authentic. I realize that giving ground on constitutional issues is a slippery slope, but for Heaven’s sake, you’re supposed to be a network of Reformed churches who confess a God who is Sovereign over all. Act like it!
If you haven’t done anything wrong, you don’t have anything to fear. Be open, be authentic. Trust God to protect you from false accusations, and repent if the allegations are true.
The world sees enough CYA nonsense in politics. What the world needs to see is Christians being real and authentic. They need to see Christians who aren’t afraid to admit they make mistakes, and not just from a pulpit or in a blog, but fleshed out in real life. They need to see us prepared to take the earthly consequences for our actions. More importantly, they need to see Christians live life as though they really trusted in the power of God and the forgiveness found in the blood of Jesus.
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