Another pastor bites the dust. Last week, news readers heard about Matt Jarrell, a traveling man with a wife, four children and a congregation in Mesquite, TX. This pastor accumulated arrests on his travels for soliciting prostitutes, illegal handgun possession, and rape. Two days after the final arrest, he hanged himself in his jail cell.
Jarrell led the double life, a life without integrity.
I read this once: "Integrity is the act of doing what is right when alone and unobserved." Good definition. Matt Jarrell failed.
Mature people integrate their external and internal selves. Ideally, adults teach children how to behave morally by placing outward restrictions on their behaviors and then teaching them to internalize those restrictions. Should a child steal, parents rightly insist that what was stolen be returned with apology and restitution. This is followed by instruction on honoring the life and possessions of others.
In time parents hope the child's inner voice, the conscience, will become well developed.
So, again ideally, the Matt Jarrell's of the world become aware early in life of their tendencies to lie, manipulate and use other people wrongly. They work diligently to transform those tendencies by practicing truth, compassion and service to others.
But some do not choose that path, and instead practice habits that lead to a life without integrity, the double life. As aware as I am of the dark side of human nature, I am still occasionally shocked when I come face to face with one who has made those choices.
At the church I serve, we have been faced with a series of thefts. One item, a very much needed commercial carpet cleaner, bothers me more than anything. With so many children in the building, we need to be able to clean the carpets frequently. We recently invested in this piece of equipment in order to keep the building as clean and safe as possible for these little ones. I do not understand punishing innocent children for the sake of self-gratification.
That theft, in addition to the other things taken, have also led to a troubling question: how much do we restrict access to this building? It's so easy to say, "A church is a business and should operate that way." Yes, it is a business, and wise business principles should be followed.
But a church is more than a simply a business. It is also a group of people who are called to worship God and serve the world. Physically, it is a place where people gather intentionally to engage in those acts of worship and service. To put restrictions upon entrance to worship and service disturbs my spirit. More, it sets the basis of relationship as non-trust instead of trust.
Years ago, I made the decision to enter into any relationship using trust as my primary bridge of connection. I will not change my mind on that decision, even as it means personally getting hurt. It is right decision for me.
Yes, I am hurt by what has happened. So is this worshiping community and I suppose we will have to lock down things tighter.
Mostly, however, in the aftermath of these thefts, I ache for the one who needed to take these things. The one without integrity is unable to trust anyone else. Result: loneliness, isolation, a sense that the world is out to get them, and a loss of the understanding that God is good.
It's a tough way to live and leads to a loss of hope in salvation, for God cannot be trusted in this mind-set. The only hope is repentance, that profound change of mind and direction that transforms the soul. With repentance, the gates to the kingdom of heaven fly wide open again. Without it, we are doomed and damned. We all get to choose which it will be.