Many Christians struggle with what it means to forgive a pastor who has committed a grievous act. Recently, a Memphis megachurch pastor admitted to a “sexual incident” with a high school student 20 years ago in Texas. I’m not in a place to render judgment over another church’s matters. Yet how should we think about forgiveness of a pastor?
Christians struggle with this question because Christianity centers on the idea of forgiveness. Step one in becoming a Christian is acknowledging that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness.
When the pastor is exposed, some push the message of forgiveness. “Who of us is without sin?” they might say, drawing from Jesus in John 8. Meanwhile, others object: “But how can we trust this guy?”
I side with the second group.
A pastor occupies two offices, or roles: the “office” of pastor and the “office” of church member. The requirements for these offices are different.
Jonathan Leeman, editorial director at 9Marks, has served as an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington and author of books on the church, including the forthcoming “How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age.”