On Moral Obligations and Falling Short
Two thoughts just collided in me. The first has been a growing dis-ease over the last few days with the way most of the reaction to Joe Paterno has been articulated. Let me be clear – there is a moral obligation to report. I believe there is a moral obligation to follow up on that reporting rather than to believe that moving it along the chain is a “washing of hands” of any further responsibility. That said, so much accusatory rhetoric is aimed at Joe Paterno right now and much of it seems to me to deny our own fallibility and culpability. We accuse from a moral high ground that I’m not convinced is honest – or helpful. Enter an article I recently shared on Facebook on Christian leadership, failure, and forgiveness from a favorite theologian C. Kavin Rowe.
That article ends (spoiler, if you want to read the article it’s here: http://www.faithandleadership.com/content/c-kavin-rowe-failure-christ-shaped-leadership):
“Consequently, when Paul tells them (the community in Rome that the letter to the Romans addresses) the truth about their community strife — it runs directly counter to Christian life together — they are prepared to hear it inside the welcome of forgiveness. By means of concentrating their attention on God’s remarkable grace, Paul has created the space for them to tell the truth about their failure. So begins the way of repair: “Receive one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (15:7).
Christ-shaped leaders must learn and teach others how to fail if for no other reason than failure will happen. It will happen because it is who we are.
But the good news is that by educating and being educated in failure, we can learn that we are already forgiven and that we can tell the truth — and we can therefore begin repair.
The world hungers for and desperately needs institutions that practice forgiveness well enough to train us in failure, that tell the truth and that teach ways of repair. Without such institutions, it is, quite simply, difficult even to breathe.”
Everywhere you look right now there is a lot of time, press, and energy being spent in calling people and corporations (which are apparently people) and nations (which are filled with people) to account. I think what Rowe invites us to do is find a way to still hold each other to account – but in space, and way, of grace. Grace has to come first. It is the beginning, middle, and end of Christian accountability. And we need to find a way to context our prophetic voices in a space of grace… or we will never find a way towards unity – or peace.