As scandals spread through every industry in the United States and people in positions of power or honor have their sins brought to light, scandals within the church can leave deep wounds on those that have trusted in leaders and have developed close relationships with people they viewed as spiritual mentors. I believe that our local area has endured more than our share of disappointment in those who have lifted themselves up as examples of Christian living.
Our first thoughts will likely go to shock, anger, and cynicism; but our task is to avoid denial. We do not need to make excuses for the sinful behavior of leaders simply because they belong to “our tribe.” As Christians we are called to stand for truth, and part of that requires us to call sin what it is—sin. We are not to justify it or protect the sinner from revelation because we believe the revealing of sin would hurt our cause. By hypocritically covering over sin, we damage the cause of Christ.
Another thing to avoid is cynicism. Although the sin of a revered figure will cause us to question the influence they have had on us, we need to remember that the Gospel remains true. The skepticism that comes from broken trust may drive us to leave Christian community; however, we need to guard against this. During times of trouble, our community of believers becomes even more important as we lean on each other to carry through this difficult time. Don’t let skepticism drive you away from the church.
Although these feelings and actions will be hard to prevent, by keeping the proper mindset and choosing to learn from the experience, we can display Christ to the world. As we process the thoughts and emotions that come with disappointment of this nature, I would encourage us to keep several things in mind.
First, remember that the exposing of sin is a good thing. In Ephesians 5:11-14, Paul writes, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” The pain that we feel can cause us to forget this teaching, but Paul encourages us to remember that the revealing of sin is a good thing. The exposure of sin should be seen as an act of mercy toward the person in sin and provides a chance for us to celebrate God’s grace.
Next, the exposure of sin reminds us what it means to be a Christian. We are reminded of the truth found in Romans 3:23 that says, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Although painful, the exposure of sin—especially in those we place on a pedestal—reminds us that we are all sinful and in need of a Savior. The revealing of sin displays our desperate condition as sinners and our need for grace. It also reminds us that we are not Christians based on our actions. Perfect lives do not make Christians. Christians are sinners saved by grace. We are redeemed by the work of Christ on the cross not based on how we behave. We are reminded that no matter the weight or size of the sin, the cross is big enough to handle them all.
Third, the revealing of sin provides an opportunity to witness to the world. We are given the chance to display true forgiveness to the one who has sinned. As encouraged by Paul in Ephesians 4, we are to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” and we are given the opportunity to show the forgiveness of Christ to a member of the body of Christ. When someone is revealed to have sinned, we need to remember that the world is watching. They see when Christian leaders fall short, and they watch how we respond. How is our reaction to public sin affecting the world? Are we displaying God’s attitude towards sin and forgiveness as we should?
Finally, we need to remember to be in prayer for all those affected by the revealing of sin. Pray for the Christians that looked up to those found in sin that their faith would remain strong. Pray for the families of those in sin that they may be healed and that there would be forgiveness in those relationships. Pray for the churches that have been affected by the sin. Pray for the person who has sinned that he would be led to repentance and restoration.
Humans fail. Preachers of the Gospel sin. False teachers will come. Russell Moore writes, “Many who come in Jesus’ name are frauds. Jesus is not.” When a person we admire lets us down, let us run to the One who never will. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus as “the author and perfecter of our faith” and learn to turn to Him more and more every day. As we deal with the heartache that comes along with disappointment, let it serve as a reminder of our place as Christians, our role as an example for Christ, the need for prayer for other believers, and let it drive us to the foot of the cross where we find forgiveness for our sins, redemption through his blood, and the One who will never disappoint us.
Kyle Brassell is a junior Religious Studies major from Olive Branch, MS. He currently serves as the president of the BSU. He is also quite adept at including references from The Office in any situation.