Scandalised

One of the really sad things about recent abuse scandals in the church is the way they mirror some of the horrific things we see in the world around us.  We should be able to respond and to offer something that is beautifully counter cultural.  Yet instead, we are seen to ape some of the worst aspects of society. We should be scandalised at stories of elitism, protective circles of friends, cronyism, bullying, sexual abuse, lying etc.  We should be able to say, here is the Gospel which is a powerful antidote. Instead, we are caught on the back foot with our own scandals. Instead of answering #MeToo with #ChurchInstead our response has to be #ChurchToo.

So, there is a peculiar encouragement in going back to the New Testament and reading the letters to the churches where we discover that it was #EarlyChurchToo.  Read the letters to the seven churches in Revelation and you could well imagine the same things being said to contemporary evangelicalism.

In 1 Corinthians we find Paul writing to a church in a scandalous culture where immorality was rife  and where society tended towards rivalry and hierarchy.  The church should have been able to offer a radical alternative and the one scandal, the sole thing that should have caused any offence should have been the Cross. Instead, in their desire to be different and edgy in all the wrong ways, the church had managed to have created a sex scandal of their own which was so out there in its shockingness that it would disturb the pagans.

In the light of recent scandals, I’d encourage you to take a read through 1 and 2 Corinthians and find out how Paul speaks to a church that has got into such a mess. It’s good to be reminded again that where we’ve got into that kind of mess that we need to get back to preaching Christ crucified so that the Gospel and the Gospel only is the true source of offence but furthermore that the spotlight is on a clearly proclaimed message which is given every chance to do its scandalous work.

Furthermore, if recent events have removed any sense of pride or hubris from our churches then that too is a good thing. 1 Corinthians takes us to the reassuring but also humbling power of grace.

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards,[b] not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being[c] might boast in the presence of God.[1]

If there is a glimmer of light and hope out of the mess, darkness and brokenness of the RZIM, Smyth and Fletcher scandals it is that it might cause us to stop trusting in our own strength and instead discover again that:

30 … because of him[d] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,[2]

If that happens then once again, we will see a world scandalised by the foolishness and offence of the Cross but also so many people wanting to escape the offence of a sin sick world finding refuge and hope in Christ.


[1] 1 Corinthians 1:26-28.

[2] 1 Corinthians 1:30.