When my friend, Drew, had a prodigal son experience and went back to his parents’ house, it made my SSA friend Jeremy and his younger housemates stop and think about what they were doing. Much of their wild living stopped, and Jeremy eventually turned around. He remained friends with Drew who had become a faithful follower of Jesus.
Because of his bad behavior, Jeremy lost his job as a part-time janitor at our church. He admitted his wrongs and that he deserved the firing. He began to pray, worship, and obey God’s commands consistently again. Things went well for him, and he and I remained friends.
I was glad I had not abandoned my friend when he strayed, and I was determined to keep being the right kind of friend for him.
I deliberately kept his sexual encounter with the younger guy confidential because of the trust and loyalty I’d built as his friend. As I said earlier, the encounter had been consensual and that guy was legally of age, so Jeremy had not committed any sort of crime.
A few years later, that younger guy told someone else about his encounter with Jeremy, and the story soon reached the pastors of our church. They called Jeremy into the office and grilled him about what had happened. Jeremy admitted the whole thing. The church banned him from all contact with anyone under 18, except with parents present. He was not allowed to serve in children’s ministry, youth meetings, or even missions trips.
When the pastors asked him if anyone else knew about his sins, he told them he had confessed to me years prior.
Soon, two pastors confronted and questioned me. They asked why I didn’t report Jeremy’s sins to them as soon as I’d known. I told them I knew there was no legal issue and that if any friend confesses sexual sin to me, I keep it confidential because of love and preserving trust.
The pastors told me I was short-sighted and had endangered the church by hiding a child-abuser. They commanded me to report to them any sexual activity I hear about so they could “protect the church.”
The pastors were clearly suspicious of my friendship with Jeremy, and I thought they were watching us to see if we were sexually involved. Since Jeremy and I were never attracted to each other, that would never happen!
Eventually, they saw it obvious that Jeremy had repented and that both of us were actually living in obedience to the Scriptural commands to avoid homosexual sin. Jeremy stayed in our church and lived within his restrictions.
I was not asked to lead any small group after that, so I felt marginalized. But I continued to reach out to other marginalized people in our church.
Eventually, I knew it was time for me to leave our church. Not only did I leave my church — I left my job, my friends, and the city where I had lived for decades. I moved to the other side of the country and started over with everything new.
Of course, even with my new life, I kept following Jesus Christ because I knew He is the absolute best!
To be continued . . .
Have you ever been marginalized by the church for your or another’s actions? Tell us a time you experienced confession with another believer — either giving or receiving it.
* Photo courtesy bruce_aldridge, Creative Commons.