When pastors fail

Pastors falling in holes catch the eye of everyone: inside the church and without.  A pastor is never so popular in his life as he is when he is caught in sin.  Adultery, corruption, lies, and double-standards create paparazzi-like intrigue from outside the church and humiliation and anger from within.

Sometimes I try to downplay the devastation of immorality to try to “rescue” someone.  But I forget that only Jesus can do the rescuing of any person.

Other times I try to upplay the devastation of immorality in church leadership in an attempt to try to “condemn” someone.  But I forget that only Jesus is the Judge of any person’s destiny.

Sometimes I want to overlook that forgiveness is necessary . . sometimes I want to overlook that forgiveness is possible.  Either way, I am losing sight of the foundation of Christianity:

  • We are sinners, in need of help.
  • Jesus helps us.

I don’t know anyone who would call a drug addict in rehab a “hypocrite” if he found a bottle of pain pills in an unlocked cabinet and took them.  The addict has had a relapse, a failure, a setback, a tragedy.  But a hypocrite is someone who pretends to never sin and delights in pointing out the sins of others.  (By the way, isn’t that just about the definition of gossip?)

One of Jesus’ closest disciples, John, gave us this picture of Christianity:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. (1 John 2:1-6, NIV)

I used to wonder if this wasn’t contradictory, but now I see it is a magnificent picture of salvation:

  • Believers are to read God’s Word so we can be convicted of sin in our lives and stay away from it.
  • But, none of us keeps God’s Word perfectly.
  • However, Jesus takes away our sin.
  • Therefore, God’s justice is fulfilled.
  • Since Jesus has saved us, He is our hero and we try to obey His commands.
  • And because we try to obey his commands, we read God’s Word so we can be convicted of sin in our lives and stay away from it.

If we do not do what Jesus commands, we are not just lying: we are liars.  So what does God command?

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.” (1 John 3:23, NIV)

Believers do not love with perfection.  But if we claim to know Jesus, we must walk a life of following the footprints of Jesus.  And when we stumble . . Jesus is there to help us back up.

When pastors fail . . they remind us that they are like all other believers.  We can laugh at them, we can turn away from God and use them as our excuse, we can condemn them, or we can see that they became Christians for a reason: because they needed Jesus.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6, NIV)

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:21-24, NIV)

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