So, A Drunk Gets A Job In A Bar...
Doug Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow Idaho, has been in the "news" lately. He has been accused of, well, all kinds of things, because Steven Sitler, a convicted pedophile, is a member of Christ Church and Wilson had the temerity to behave like a pastor toward him.
I don't know the whole story because I wasn't there and I have nothing to do with Wilson or his church.1 However, this much is clear: while attending Christ Church in Moscow, Sitler was revealed as a serial pedophile, was eventually tried, found guilty and sentenced to prison. He was released on parole and resumed his participation in Christ Church. While on parole he met, courted and married a young woman who was also a member of Christ Church. Doug Wilson presided at the wedding and reportedly encouraged the young newlyweds to have children and raise their offspring in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Mr. and Mrs. Sitler did just that - conceived a child I mean. Yet, it does not appear the child has been brought forth into a godly household. It has recently been revealed that Stephen Sitler has been accused of inappropriate behavior toward his own son. Thus the firestorm of criticism directed at the right Rev. Wilson.
As I said, I have no knowledge of how things are done at Christ Church but I must say I find this situation baffling. I understand that God forgives the repentant sinner. I take Wilson at his word when he says that Sitler is a repentant sinner. Nevertheless being a repentant sinner does not mean one should be trusted to never sin again - especially in the particular way for which they have a propensity.
Let's suppose Jones is the town drunk. He manages to make a few dollars from time to time but every penny he has he drinks away as fast as he earns it. Let's further suppose Jones stumbles into a revival meeting one Saturday night and is miraculously converted. The next day Jones shows up in church and makes a public confession of faith. He is baptized and seeks out a mentor to help him grow in Christ likeness. Jones finds a job that week and in time is known as a model employee. Everyone in town sees this providential change taking place in Jones' life and understands he was no longer the town drunk but has become a godly, productive member of society.
Now, what if Jones' pastor approached him one day and said to him, "Jones, you've done quite well since you've experienced the new birth and I believe God wants to bless you further. I know how you love people and love the social atmosphere of the neighborhood bar and so I thought I would let you know that the joint on the corner of Fifth and Main is looking for a bartender. I encourage you to take that job and use your gregarious gifts for the glory of God." I don't know about you but I would question the wisdom of that pastor. Yes, Jones has shown fruit of repentance. He has given evidence of the new birth but there are some things that Jones should probably never do. Like work in a bar.
I don't know this personally but it is reported that Stephen Sitler has shown every evidence of the new birth. However there are some things that Sitler should never do. Like get married and have children.
The supporters of Wilson and Sitler will probably say I am setting myself up as God by making this suggestion. They may say I'm denying the power of God to change lives because I suggest Sitler should have never married and had children. They're wrong, of course. I understand God changes lives. He brings forth a new creation when a person confesses Jesus as Lord and believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead. But we live in a messed up world. And one of the things that is messed up is a refusal to obey God's law. And when God's law is ignored there are consequences. One of the consequences is an incomplete flushing of the system, you might say.
For the record, I believe rapists of all stripes should be executed.2 Certainly they can repent and be born again but that does not absolve them of responsibility for their behavior. In a godly criminal justice system they would be executed for their crime regardless of any profession of faith. With that in mind, I believe the godly approach to dealing with such men (or women) should acknowledge the fact they are under a sentence of death. Because of the wicked state of our society, they will not normally experience just punishment in this life. Thus, the church should recognize things are out of kilter because God's law is ignored. And when things are out of kilter you don't simply go on your merry way as if everything is okay.
I am not going to join in the chorus of voices condemning Doug Wilson because I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he did what he did for all the right reasons (meaning he is a pastor endeavoring to love as Christ loved). But if Rev. Wilson had asked my advice a few years ago, I would have suggested Steven Sitler be counseled to live a life of celibacy devoted to the service of God in a capacity that would keep him away from children. I would have advised the leadership of Christ Church to acknowledge both the power of God to bring forth a new creation and the imbalance in our world because that same God's law is ignored.
1. I know Doug Wilson only in the sense that I chatted with him at his office about six years ago. I had dropped by to introduce myself, give him copies of two of my books and ask for a back cover blurb. A few weeks later he emailed me his response. If you would like to see what he said about the two books go here and here. I have also read a few of his books.
2. Also for the record, I worked for the Idaho Department Of Correction as a case manager at Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino for several years (I've been a "bi-vocational pastor" for most of my ministry). It was during that time (just completed) that I gained first hand knowledge of how screwed up our criminal justice system is.
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