I saw another article about a failed pastoral leader. This one committed adultery with a married congruent. According to the article, the Lutheran pastor had already stopped the relationship and confessed to his wife months prior, but the married congruent ‘s husband had just found out about the relationship and reported the pastor to police. In this particular state, it is a crime (punishable with years in prison) for a person in a place of pastoral/counselor leadership to have sexual relations with a person seeking help, even if the person is consensual.
It’s disheartening to say the least. This pastor has a wife and five children who now have to publicly endure and cope with his hurtful actions. The pastor’s accomplice (in this case) will certainly have her own pain to deal with as well. In this particular circumstance, the pastor was not charged because the Prosecutor determined that the infidelity was not done while or during any ongoing counseling. Still, damage has been done, and the fallout is huge.
Of course, this is only one instance of Christian leadership failure that has made the headlines. I could name headline after headline of Christian leaders from all denominations that have wronged people in various ways by doing the very things they preach against. But, naming names and pointing fingers is not the point I want to make here.
The first point I’d like to make is that for every one failed Christian leader that makes the headlines there are hundreds of good Christian leaders, who, because of their faithfulness don’t make front page news. Those who live every day in a Christian leadership role keeping their eyes on Jesus, resisting temptation, reading the word, seeking the Lord in prayer and have a strong fellowship of accountability to a Christian friend or friends that they can go to when they themselves are struggling.
For the leaders who do fail and their downfall is broadcasted for all to see, their actions don’t only have a ripple effect, they have a crushing wave effect in todays media. Nobody thinks about the hundreds of Christian leaders doing right and good when the one disgraced leader is right in front of them on T.V., newspapers, Facebook, Twitter, Google and any other news outlet.
Any Christian leader who thinks their lousy actions doesn’t have a far rippled effect deceives themselves. It hurts us all in some way or another. It damages even our witness to the non-christian who can point the finger at the news story and claim that at least they are not a hypocrite like “Christians.” And you see? We’ve just been in the headline with the failed leader – however remotely.
As Christians, what should our response be when a Christian leader has fallen for the world to see?
First and foremost, we should pray for all involved: The immediate family and friends that have to cope with so public a sin, the accomplice or victim (in many cases). We should realize no matter what the media says, we never have the full story. Also, understand that we rarely get to know what happened next? True full repentance on the part of the Christian leader? Reconciliation? Maybe yes, maybe no. The fact is, we don’t know, but God does, leave the judging to Him.
Next, as Christians, we should forgive them. Even though, we may and most likely don’t know them, we must make sure a bitter root does not shoot up in our hearts because of what someone – however far away – has done. Unforgiveness could very likely lead to being judgmental about another leader because of what someone did, somewhere else.
What if a Christian leader has failed you personally?
Seems like many of us have these stories. Stories of being wronged by a “church” or Christian leader in the church: Being fired or layed off in a church setting, an unkind remark, opposition of your outreach ideas, feelings of not being included, church members who neglected to visit or reach out to you.
It seems we expect perfection of each other even though we don’t possess perfection ourselves.
If something like any of these hit a personal note, it can feel like a punch to the stomach that your weren’t expecting. It seems we expect perfection of each other even though we don’t possess perfection ourselves. It may take a while of prayer, but we still must forgive and be reconciled to one another. It’s what Jesus tells us to do. It’s what real love is.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
This is how the world will know we have Jesus, because only by His power, His love are we able to forgive and be reconciled. Forgiveness releases us for the Father’s blessing.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25
I’ve seen Christians response to wrongs (especially response to wrongs by leaders) on both sides – those that forgave and then those that didn’t. The ones that forgave were able to advance in their walk with the Lord and with others. They were able to move on and not focus on “water under the bridge.” But the ones that didn’t forgive were the ones that caused division. They called on others who had been wronged and talked amongst themselves. They became gossips and outspoken against others, against the church as a whole, and ended up creating more wrongs themselves. The Father did not count our sins against us, but instead He reconciled Himself to us through Jesus, not counting our sins against us. Should we not do the same for one another?
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 2:5
We are all going to be wronged at some point in our lives, and we are all going to wrong someone else at some point as well. But how we respond and react to these wrongs is crucial to our walk with the Lord.
Last, and with great importance is to know that we follow Christ, not a man. Man (and women) will always fall and fail, and wrong us, but Jesus never will. And that, dear friends is our testimony to the lost.