Thursday, March 27, 2008

99 to 1

They even look a lot alike. Same hair cut and color, similar body types, similar timbre in their voices.

Besides these similarities, they share this. They are haunting examples of times that, as a pastor, I chose the 99 over the 1.

"Sid" was a teenager. Smart, but angry. He pushed the limits during every youth group gathering. Some kids quit coming and told me it was because of Sid. There was pressure from some parents to kick him out of the group. I stood up to this and maintained that church should not be in the business of "kicking out" those who were obviously struggling. Finally, though, he did something so outrageous and violent that we had no choice. For the safety and continued viablity of the group, we had to say, "You blew it. We care about you, but you can't come back."

Fast forward 15 years.

"Bruce" is a bona fide adult. A former fundamentalist, when I met him he was already at the fringes of "traditional Christianity" even by my rather generous definition of what that term means. Within a year, he had moved beyond the fringes. LIke-- Marcus Borg was too conservative for him. This wouldn't necessarily have been a problem for me or the session--better to hold him close and continue the conversation than reject him in a way that might make a temporary trajectory over the fence a permanent alienation. But he wasn't content to be in conversation. He was right and we were wrong and anyone who couldn't see that traditional Christianity was bankrupt and over was a fool. Finally, in a small group he became verbally abusive. We weren't going to kick him out of the church, but we asked him not to return to that particular group and said that kind of behavior was not acceptable anywhere. He asked to be removed from the rolls.

I know about the parable and all. But doesn't a good shepherd sometimes put the 99 first?

8 comments:

Shalom said...

I think there's a significant difference between the one sheep who was lost and one sheep who is abusing the other 99. Abuse and/or poisonous dysfunction are not behaviors which qualify as the same kind of 'lost' as that one sheep. To me, anyway.

But I've been haunted by similiar questions. That damn Jesus - he never lets anything be easy...

SpookyRach said...

Well, hell. I dunno. Sounds like good decisions to me.

Shalom's comment made me laugh out loud.

ellbee said...

I'd have to agree with Shalom. Besides, it sounds like there were attempts at remediation within the family.

more cows than people said...

not fun, but faithful. and shalom is right on the money.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Ditto shalom.

And Romans has good advice on this subject.

ymp said...

Shalom is right. The Good Shepherd left the 99, together and in the safest location available. You did this to provide the safe location to the 99. Abuse is not tolerable. I think the trick is to then not shun the one.
Nobody ever said it was easy, but they also tended to leave out these sorts of days.
prayers for you and the sheep

net said...

Sometimes the most gracious thing we can do is steer a sheep towards another fold where s/he can feel more comfortable with "their own" instead of trying to change the flock they're in.

Blessings, Reb!

jadedjabber said...

I come from a group of people who are often this type. People are so wounded and hurt. They end up being "wounded wounders" in congregations because they have so many of their own issues. As hard as it is, I think you did the right thing. "Wounded wounders" if left unchecked will simply wound others. A tree that bears no fruit perhaps?.....