Monday, February 27, 2006

The Filth Within

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It's a classic gag. The ol' fly in the ice cube trick. Your victim thinks she is enjoying a cold, refreshing glass of lemonade, but when she is half-finished with her drink.... AHHHH! One of the ice cubes contains a housefly, frozen inside! Oh, the humanity! Her lips must have brushed up against the ice which entombed this small insect! The horror!

After the laughing subsides, you then pull out the "ice cube" to show her that it was all a practical joke. It's not a real ice cube at all. It's simply a plastic novelty item, approximately on par with the whoopie cushion and the fake doggie doo.

Of course, the terrorlies in the fact that there are all kinds of disgusting things out there. We don't want to eat flies or have our lips brush against one. But at least with the "ice cube" you can see the filth before you try to eat the filth. We can identify the housefly as repulsive and avoid it. But what about the filth we can't see?

A tip of the ol' ballcap to Mark of runalong with pastor mark fame for directing my attention to this science fair project in South Florida, where a twelve year old girl, who was annoyed at the way her friends would chew the ice from their fountain soft drinks, decided to check to see what was in that ice. She collected ice from self-serve fountains inside fast food restaurants and compared them to... (you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph. Really. Well, OK, but don't say I didn't warn you.) ...she compared the ice in the restaurant to water she collected from the toilets in these restaurants! The story doesn't tell us if she collected the water from the tank or from the bowl, but I doubt we really want that much information now, do we? And the results? You guessed it. Seventy percent of the time, ice from fast food restaurants was dirtier than toilet water. In several cases, the ice tested positive for E. coli bacteria, which comes from human waste and is much sneakier than the ol' fly in the ice cube.

Even if you can't see it, oftentimes filth is there. It doesn't have to be huge and obvious "frozen housefly" filth. The microscopic filth is bad enough. Worse maybe.

Yet we all have filth within. That's what human depravity really means. This side of heaven, we aren't going to be E. coli free, to coin a phrase. Not you. Not me. And I'm fascinated that some people really don't get that. I'm not proud of the fact that I sin, but I do. And it happens every single day. And (gasp!) I'm a pastor. But we pastors are depraved as well.

Chad from Eternal Revolution posted on this same subject as I was preparing this post. He pointed me to this story about a pastor in North Carolina who dares to admit to his congregation that he struggles with tithing the way the people in the pews do. That pastor said this about being a pastor:
You are held to a higher standard... People want their pastors (always) to be kind, peaceful and in touch with God... I see myself ordained to certain tasks of ministry. But I really do try to say all the time that I am just a human being. I am just as sinful as anyone else.
Chad also pointed out another blog where the same article is referenced, but the discussion there is that it is terrible that pastors will admit to sinning. The majority of commenters seemed to be appalled by the notion of a pastor talking about his own battles with sin. Like this poster:
If the pastor/elder is teaching the Word of God faithfully, then it is Jesus preaching. Romans 8:29 says that those whom the Father "foreknew", are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. That would be Jesus,...no? Setting Jesus apart as an unattainabble standard is the essence of post-modern theology.
What kind of warped theology is this? Perfection is not going to happen in our lifetime. Perfection happens at glorification -- when we go to heaven. No living man, woman, preacher, blog commenter or anyone else has hit complete holiness. Yes, Jesus is the unattainable standard while we are in this sphere. And to pretend otherwise contradicts Scripture. A pastor does not become Jesus when he preaches. I am guided by the Holy Spirit when I am behind the pulpit, but that doesn't mean I cannot or have not made a mistake. As pastors, we are not 100% holy. We are not 100% faithful in teaching. We are not 100% filth free. That's why we Christians are called to check out what the preacher is saying, as the Bereans did with Paul.

The admissions can go too far. I certainly don't need to hear an accounting of the various struggles a pastor has with improper sexual fantasies. I don't want a play-by-play recap of his battle with homosexuality. I don't even want a pastor's details about why he can't stand his neighbor. But by the same token, to pretend that there is no human depravity taking its toll every single day is living a lie. This pastor's open admission and acknowledgement of a battle with selfishness is not an assault on a perfect pastorate. There has never been a perfect pastor. There has always been filth within, despite the struggles to overcome.

We do not like the fact that in any of us, there is filth. Yet selfishness, greed, lust, sloth and all their cousins are semi-permanent residents within us. Today there are saints and sinners everywhere, but even when we are saints, still we are sinners. Even when the sins are not "frozen housefly" size, they are just as deadly. But to pretend they are not there is deadlier.

So praise God for the atoning blood of Christ. That filth isn't coming out of there any other way.

10 comments:

Jennifer said...

I read about that ice cube report. YUCK! Yeah, I'd say that pastor has one enormous ego.

John said...

Pastors have to be careful about when to admit to sin. It is a great advantage in some circumstances.

Ed, what is your denomination's view of Original Sin?

Jenn said...

You know, the only thing on my criteria list for pastors is to be more knowledgable about the bible than I am. Seriously...I understand that we're all human beings, I don't know why anyone would expect anything more from anyone than they can expect from themselves.

rev-ed said...

John, our denomination takes few doctrinal positions aside from the basics. A while back one position was added to Discipline, supposedly to be the first of many such definitions. Years later, we have only one:

All persons are born, because of the fall of the race in Adam, with an inherent tendency toward evil. This depravity has negatively affected and is operative in every faculty of one's being. Each person, because of the inherited depravity, when confronted by the world, the flesh and the devil, will follow the sinful nature, deliberately choosing to ratify sin, and thus assumes the guilt and condemnation belonging to a sinner.

GiBee said...

WHAT?!? Okay ... let me get this straight ...

You're a pastor ...

and you're not 100% HOLY?

Gasp!

And ... lunch at McDonalds will never be looked at with the same eyes!

Jennifer said...

What the.....? You changed your look again?!

rev-ed said...

Hey, I can't change my hairstyle any more... ;)

Michael said...

Great post. One verse came to mind while I was reading your post, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8) While pastors should not be walking in sin for obvious reasons, all Christians sin. If a pastor claims he has not sinned, well he is a liar.

God bless you and good thoughts!

wilsonian said...

Really appreciate this post! One thing that frightens me about people who think those in ministry don't sin, and those in ministry who claim to be sinless, is the paradigm it sets up for abuse.

There are too many broken people out there who suffered under the hands of clergy, who everyone believed to be incapable of such behaviour.

Mutual accountability is a beautiful thing. Hard. But beautiful.

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