Wednesday, January 9, 2019
No hands are clean. . .
There are some, not a few, who look at the filled seats of churches devoted to good theater more than good theology, who have abandoned their creed and confession, and whose liturgy is more the celebration of self and moment than Christ and who fear the end of Christianity. Who, after all would be drawn to a church whose best is to echo what people think and whose promise is only today? Add to that the fear that those already in such a church will realize the tepid gospel spoken by those who think that today is or should be enough for anybody. They may well be true. Evangelicalism has sent forth its shoots into every Protestant Church and even liturgical churches like Lutheranism are not immune from their influence. I do not know what the future will hold.
But this I know, the fact that no hands are clean does not drive me from the Church. The stains of sin on the leaders and those who sit in the pews is scandal to be sure but it is no more scandal than the sins which inhabit my heart and mind. Their sins, as evil as they truly are, bear no greater guilt or punishment than my own. That no hands are clean may come as great disappointment to some but for me this is the solemn admission that we all need what only Christ can give, that we have no boast but Christ and His cross, and no hope but the future Christ Himself prepared by His resurrection. The fact that no hands are clean does not diminish that mine are dirty as well nor can they obscure the only grace that offers hope to the dirty, the guilty, and the dead.
I do not at all mean to suggest that our leaders should strive to be mediocre or moderate in either sin or holiness. I do not at all support the idea that our pastors and bishops should be men of ordinary character or that they need not be exemplary in their desire for and their pursuit of the things of God. But the power of God does not hinge upon the holiness of His ministers nor does the grace of God depend upon the righteousness of those who dispense His Sacraments and preach His Word. I do not live in fear that a man with unholy hands could render the promise of God moot. I do not wrestle with the doubts of those who look to the dirty hands of the pastor before them and turn away from the unchanging truth of the Gospel proclaimed by His voice and the Sacraments administered by His hands. In fact, I am greatly comforted by the fact that those who minister the means of grace are in the same desperate need of His ministrations as those who receive them. I am encouraged by the reality of a voice that needs to hear this Word even more than he is compelled to speak it to me. I am in hopes that I am not alone.
If individual churches have a future, it is known only to God and it is in His hands. The Gospel itself will compel such a future for Christianity. It will come in spite of the faults and failings of those on either side of the altar rail. For the Lord has chosen to build His kingdom on earth through those who have no clean hands. It is a mystery to me why He has chosen such. But I am confident that He who moved time and eternity to mount the cross for me, will not now abandon His work to sinful people or hell's minions. I hope you are confident of this as well.