You were brought to Christ under his ministry. Since that day, he has had held a special place in your affections, in fact you feel an eternal indebtedness to him. You have looked up to him as the model Christian in his life and service for the Lord. And then the gut-wrenching news breaks that for some time he has been living a double life. The weeks pass, and the sordid details you just don’t want to believe begin to unfold. The stomach churns and the mind struggles to process the unsavoury revelations, yet strangely, no matter how repugnant the particulars are, it is the sense of bitter disappointment and betrayal that cause the deepest pain and bring the heaviest shower of ice upon your world more than anything else. This, tragically is a scenario that so many can identify with, and Satan has wrought a great victory when he brings about the demise and shaming of a man who holds such a high profile in the church or in the wider Christian world.
The best of men…
When a leader fails it is not only a grievous offence to God and to his people, but also has the potential for widespread spiritual harm too terrifying to consider. Who can estimate how many followers of Christ, even if they have not stopped running the race, have been left with deep-rooted distrust or cynicism regarding the church after such a fall. At such a time, it is all too easy for those who profess to be believers, to join hands with the enemies of Christ and the gospel in their cynical opinion that the church is a place for hypocrites, and that ‘outsiders’ live better lives without ‘religion’. It is right here that we must curtail the enemy’s activity by fixing our eyes upon the pure and perfect head, Jesus Christ and confidently pointing others to him. The old maxim is still sound, ‘The best of men are men at best’, and it is no less true of Christian leaders. Whilst seeking always to honour them and submit joyfully to their authority (Heb. 13:17) we need to be realistic enough to recognise that no matter how filled with grace these saints may have appeared, they, like us all are still sinful human beings with the propensity to commit even the gravest of sins.
What can we do?
When such a calamity befalls us, what can we possibly do?
▪ Pray for any victims from his actions It is impossible to estimate the damage that has been done, and in so many areas, over perhaps a number of years.
▪ Pray for the fallen one – and of course his/her family, who above us all, will be in the direst position, struggling not only with the betrayal, but also having to cope with shame and distress on a scale we cannot begin to imagine. (Where appropriate, discipline and restoration will inevitably need to be tackled by church leaders, so pray for them too).
▪ Look to Jesus – he is the only perfect leader. He will never betray or disappoint us. (Heb. 12:2,3)
▪ Protect yourself from cynicism. Christ loves the church, she is his beloved bride, and although at times we may grieve over the sin within her (which we, of course contribute to) he will, one day, ‘present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ (Eph. 5:28)
▪ Forgive realistically. We most likely are never going to forget the pain and betrayal, but we can and must pray: 1. That we will have grace to forgive the fallen one from the heart and 2. That he/she might experience that ‘Godly sorrow that brings repentance, leads to salvation and leaves no regret.’ (2 Cor. 7:10)
▪ Search yourself. We can use such painful times as a precious opportunity to humble ourselves, increasing our determination to fight sin and renewing our determination to ‘finish well’.
The reality is, leaders come and go, but Christ is the Chief Shepherd and will remain the faithful and true leader of his sheep. ▪