Roy and I took a 20 week course in The History of Christianity at Oxford University this year.
We were considering Thomas Cromwell whom the lecturer, Ken Barnes, presented as a true believer in the theological principles of the Reformation.
I was astonished. I said, “I thought he was a wily, unscrupulous politician.” Ken laughed. “He was both,” he said.
And that is one of the true and shocking realizations of middle age, that people can be both–both ambitious, let’s say, for advancement in the local or national or international church, and sincere lovers of Christ. Both ambitious of leadership, recognition and praise, and devoted to Christ. Both sincerely committed Christians, and sinners.
All men have sinned, and fallen short of the grace of God. All men are made in the image of God. So, seeing people as black or white, saints or sinners is naive and unintelligent. A noble Christian leader one truly does respect can betray confidences, be tempted by money to flatter and advance the wrong people, make decisions out of self-interest and cowardice, and not confront the wrongs he sees. And even people one views as evil can be moved by pity, compassion, love and conscience.
People can be “both.” I tend to see issues and people in black and white, and in middle age realize that I have been too swift to write people off once I see their feet of clay. I would have written Cromwell off, but without him, there might not have been the Anglican Church in which I am growing spiritually, in the company of present day Mores, Cromwells, Wolseys and Erasmuses.