Pastor Larry Blevins rested his head on the altar, exhausted from the intense prayer and weeping he’d been doing for the past hour.
If only he’d been able to find a more reasonable, easier-to-preach translation of I Corinthians 15:11-13. Or if Barnaby Carr had just taken himself off and joined a church which made allowances for such activities.
Better yet, he wished he’d never met Mr. Carr! Never had become friends with the man. That their wives had not begun a friendship, that the four of them hadn’t started their monthly dinner night out.
What would he have done if the rumor had never been proved true?
“But it’s true, Larry,” his wife Joan had several weeks ago. “I’ve heard the rumors for months now, but Lori actually showed me the correspondence!”
“I’m sure it’s just an internal business thing, Joan,” Larry replied, hopefully.
“If that’s all it was, then why did you get that anonymous printout of I Corinthians 15? People know about this, and expect you to do something!”
“That passage refers to sexual immorality. This wasn’t that.”
“That passage just starts with sexual sin. It includes, clearly, what Barnaby is doing. I just looked it up in The Message; it sounds pretty harsh, but it follows the original language pretty well. We are not to pretend this is acceptable behavior, and just go along with it.”
“Easy for you to say, Joan,” Larry said, nearly choking on the lump in his throat. Not only was he declaring he could have nothing more to do with the Carrs, but he was also making them pariahs in their own congregation.
“Let’s go over this step by step,” he suggested.
Joan sat down beside him, Bible at her side and a notepad in her lap.
“Okay, Georgia Banks came to you complaining that Barnaby threatened to let her go if she didn’t skew the results of the contract bid. When was that?”
“Back in May, so nearly six months ago now.”
“And why didn’t you tell me about it then?”
“You know why, Larry: Georgia likes to complain about everything, I just thought it was one more bellyache (sorry, Lord).”
“Then I heard from Otis, who I thought was him just being our cranky Otis, even though he is—or was—Barnaby’s treasurer. And I thought that’s just the way business is done; it’s not really cheating. That was in September.”
“And meanwhile,” Joan went on, scratching notes on her pad, “Georgia resigned from B & E, explaining she was taking an early retirement, and Barnaby and Elaine threw her that big going-away bash, which we went to, in fact.”
“When did Lori bring the paperwork to you?”
“That was the middle of October. Undeniable proof that Barnaby’s a crook, Larry, and it’s the way he’s always done business.”
“I took him to lunch and confronted him the following Monday, right? That did not go well.” Larry ran his fingers through his curly hair, tangling it even more than it did on its own. He looked now as bad as he felt: harried, frustrated, worried and sick.
The couple prayed together, opening their hearts to wisdom from above, trying with everything in them not to become entangled in human emotions (which was, Larry thought to himself, like fighting a tsunami).
“It was a mistake, Larry!” a heated Barnaby Carr shouted.
“Try not to cause a scene, Barn,” Larry cautioned. “And it wasn’t just a mistake. It was ongoing, and you know it.”
“From what you know,” Barnaby argued. “Don’t you make mistakes?”
“Barn, we’ve been over this. I hate it. You’ve been a wonderful friend. But I need to follow Scripture here, and I need to lead my congregation in the right way as well. You know as well as I do what the next step is. I asked you do the right thing, confess it to the congregation, and if you refuse to do that, you know that the outcome will be, well, an outgoing, if you’ll pardon the expression.”
“Not funny, Larry.” Barnaby was truly, icily angry.
“Not meant to be,” his pastor responded. “So if you show up on Sunday, I’ll know you plan to do the right thing. If you don’t, well, I guess we won’t see each other anymore, in church or out.”
As Larry wept at the altar early that Sunday morning, he felt a hand touch his shoulder, and turned to find Barnaby Carr on his knees beside him, weeping too.
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