Recently a video surfaced online of a Christian university leader whom many admired which purportedly shows his involvement in an extramarital affair. The devastating revelation of his alleged indiscretion and the subsequent after-effects of a sin made public have caused great dismay, disgust and distress.
And, the hack of a website database which promised secrecy to those wanting to cheat on their spouses not only was the further undoing of a Christian television personality, it may bring the fall of other church leaders and members into disgrace and fractured families left in turmoil. In his blog, Ed Stetzer wrote: “Based on my conversations with leaders from several denominations in the U.S. and Canada, I estimate that at least 400 church leaders (pastors, elders, staff, deacons, etc.) will be resigning Sunday. This is a significant moment of embarrassment for the church—and it should be.”
“Yet, rarely do people consider a larger group affected by a pastor’s failure, a group larger than even the pastor’s own family, who is facing the primary brunt of the agonizing pain,” Stetzer observed. “What happens to the sheep when the shepherd is disqualified from pastoral ministry?” he poignantly asks. How do those who trusted these spiritual leaders—even placed them on a pedestal—cope with their defrocking and demise?
Two biblical stories may provide insight, here:
Before we rush to condemn another, the story of the woman caught in adultery confronts us with a reality that we all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard. While others hastily grab for stones, in Jesus, grace and mercy should be shown, but sin should never be condoned. Jesus gently lifts and admonishes guilt-ridden souls, “Go and do not sin again.”
With King David, however, we also encounter the destruction wreaked when a leader fails. One often compounds sin with deception, secrecy and conspiracy. David arranges to have Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, killed to cover up his indiscretion. Yet, when confronted by Nathan, David also exhibited a contrite heart and a spirit of repentance.
While not every leader should retain their position, God, in His grace, can yet restore and use some to bring healing. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit,” David prayed.
Psalm 23, one of the most beloved, teaches that even when we walk through the valleys in life, our God is still there with us. Both His rod of discipline and His staff of guidance can afford us great comfort in dark times. Lynda Randle in a classic gospel tune observes:
“We talk of faith way up on the mountain.
Talk comes so easy when life’s at its best.
Now down in the valleys, of trials and temptations
That’s where your faith, is really put to the test.
For the God on the mountain is the God in the valley.
When things go wrong, He’ll make them right.
And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times.
The God of the day, is still God in the night.”