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A Chat with my Troubled Soul

The internet is ablaze with the news that Pastor Alistair Begg advised a Christian grandmother to attend a wedding in which her grandson was marrying a transgendered person. The interview in which this counsel was shared can be found on YouTube HERE.

The vast majority of internet responses from the conservative, Christian perspective can be generally summarized as “Wow, I can’t believe he said that,” and “Boy, that was bad advice.” In other words, an expression of shock and of disagreement. Apparently a Christian radio network has decided to no longer broadcast Alistair’s Truth for Life program as a result.

This post is NOT about the rightness or wrongness of Pastor Begg’s advice. To remove my opinion on that from the table, I’ll state briefly I think he could have communicated his position and advice better, and that the advantages and appropriateness of “not attending” should have been more clearly brought out.

This post is about how the average Christian in the pew (like me!) should respond to this news. Specifically, these thoughts are for those who appreciate Pastor Begg’s ministry, but disagree with this advice, and are now struggling with how to respond. In other words, I’m talking to those who (like myself) have the upmost respect for this man’s teaching and ministry, but believe Begg’s advice to this grandmother to have been imperfect at best, or way off the mark at worst.

A Word to Troubled Souls

Maybe the best way to approach this is with a conversation. A little chat. Questions and answers. I’ll talk to myself about this. Just me talking to myself. Don’t worry, I don’t think I need to be put on medication. Talking to yourself is actually not a bad practice. The Psalmist did it. Do you remember? Psalm 42:5 he, speaking to himself, says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” That isn’t a bad place to begin, so I’ll start there.

Myself: Did you hear the news about Pastor Begg?

Me: What news?

Myself: He advised a Christian grandmother to attend her grandson’s wedding to a transgendered person. Everyone is saying how wrong that was! I’m so upset! It has been bothering me for days!

Me: So, why are you bothered by this?

Myself: Well, Alistair is a respected, highly visible, public Christian figure and preacher. His opinions carry a lot of weight.

Me: True, but that wasn’t my question. Why are YOU bothered?

Myself: Well, he seems to have gone off course here. I didn’t expect this answer from him. We expect him to not cave to current trends and social customs. He seems to have crumbled here. I’m worried this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Me: Okay. Did you expect Alistair Begg to always agree 100% with every opinion that you or others hold? Did you expect him to always, in every issue, align perfectly with the way you and others believe?

Myself: Well, of course not. But this seems like a pretty big issue.

Me: Maybe it is. Do you expect those you learn from and whom God sets in positions of significant influence to always agree on every big issue?

Myself: I’m not sure what you are getting at here. I think he gave some really bad advice and lots of others do too. He should repent.

Me: What if he doesn’t believe his advice was wrong? What if he honestly and prayerfully believes his counsel was within the boundaries of Scripture?

Myself: But it is so obviously wrong!

Me: Not to him. At least not yet. Are you willing to wait and give him time?

Myself: Well, how long should we give him?

Me: How much time would you want others to give you?

Myself: I guess I would want others to give me a lot of time.

Me: Is it possible that, just maybe, we expect a bit too much from those in leadership positions? Certainly we expect faithfulness. But could we possibly be expecting flawlessness?

Myself: Well, where do we draw the line? When do we say a man has gone too far?

Me: I’m not sure. But do you think that one piece of questionable advice is where we should draw that line?

Myself: I suppose not.

Me: J.C. Ryle once said this, “Learn to moderate your expectations. Depend on it, the less you expect from people and things here below the happier you will be.” 

Myself: That seems a little pessimistic, don’t you think?

Me: Paul called himself a “wretched man.” Elsewhere he said “I have not yet attained.” Is that pessimistic? Matthew Henry the puritan commentator wrote “We cannot expect too little from man nor too much from God.”

Myself: So are you saying this isn’t an important issue?

Me: I’m saying the way we respond is equally important. Our response to the perceived faults and failures of others tells us a lot about ourselves. Jesus warned about missing the mote in our own eye and focusing on the speck in someone else. The faults of others always seem bigger than our own.

Myself: Are you saying I have possibly expected too much of Alistair Begg?

Me: We all do it, and every generation must beware of it. Spurgeon once put it this way “If we would always remember that we live among men who are imperfect, we should not be in such a fever when we find out our friends’ failings. Blessed is he who expects nothing of poor flesh and blood, for he shall never be disappointed. The best of men are men at best, and the best wax will melt.” 

Myself: Maybe a little more patience and a little less outrage is a better approach.

Me: I think you are on the right track.

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