Wednesday, January 21, 2009

an example of helpful honesty

I was pondering this morning whether honesty from an older Christian about their sin is ever helpful, when I read the following passage from John Piper's A Godward Life during my morning quiet time. I found it profoundly helpful. See what you think:

Self-pity in suffering is the taste left after your sacrifice goes unadmired. There are two ways to get rid of it. One is to make sure you get admiration. The other is to make no sacrifices. Or could there be a third way? Like seeing the sacrifice in a new way?

Take being a pastor, for example. Are there sacrifices? Is there any suffering? Well, that depends. Let me tell you a story that has punched (for a season, at least) the air out of my self-pity ...

[He tells the story of Irving Hetherington, a missionary to Australia in the the mid 19th century, and the stresses he faced compared to the difficulties he used to complain about as a minister in Scotland.]

What this powerful story did for me was to put the pressures of my ministry into missionary - and biblical - perspective. How easy it is to begin to assume that I should be comfortable. How quickly I can start to expect an easy and hassle-free ministry.

But I tell missionaries just the opposite. Life is war. Life is stress: the language-learning is stress; the culture is stress; the food is stress; the kids' education is stress; relationships are stress. Get ready for incarnation and crucifixion.

Yet here in American, where everybody speaks English and eats pizza, I bellyache over an extra meeting, an ill-timed hospital call, and too many choices. Then I read of Irving Hetherington, and I think of "normal" missionary life. I see my "sacrifices" in a new way. [He quotes Mark 10:29-30.]

Before the words of Jesus and the example of Irving Hetherington, my self-pity goes up the chimney. And in its place? A passion to have the mind of Christ. "The Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ... It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Matthew 20:28; Acts 20:35, RSV). (pp. 112-113, my emphasis)
Piper could have left out the bit in bold. But I'm glad he left it in. It drove his point into my heart, leading me to repentance, because I saw myself all too familiarly in the specific examples he gave of his own sin. I think this is a good example of how honesty from an older Christian can help - as long as they lead you by the hand to Jesus.


Simone R. said...

Great example. Well crafted. Brief. No details about what the 'belly-aching' involves for him. Takes us to Jesus really fast.


Valori said...

I think it takes wisdom to know what to share no matter how old you are, but especially if you are in a position of authority. Is that what you are thinking of more -- people who are leading others? Still, the only reason for not sharing, in my opinion, would be to serve others -- not because you are afraid to be known. The way that Dr. Piper did it was great, and in my opinion, he could share even more than that as long as he shared it in a God=glorifying way. People benefit from knowing their leaders wrestle with sin just like they do. I don't think it serves when people think of leaders as "different" (as in more naturally holy) than they are. If they are further along in sanctification, at least it is good to know that they have had to fight the same fight to get there! What do you think?

Jean said...

I agree, Valori - details are helpful as long as they're helpful details. Tautological, but it makes sense to me! :)