Accomplishments as High as Heaven, Character as Low as Hell
In recent months the evangelical world has been rocked by a number of scandals, by news of yet more leaders who used their particular churches or ministries to indulge on their own to the harm more. These are yet more cases of guys who will no doubt endure before God someday and plead all their accomplishments—“Didn’t I preach the gospel for you? Didn’t I encourage many people in their belief? Didn’t I guide many people to the Master? ” Yet in spite of such pleas, they will surely hear terms of the severest disapproval. They will learn in that day that accomplishments stacked as high as bliss are no recompense for character sunk as low as hell.
Their stories are usually consistent with so many other people in a number of details, including this: There were many times at which they should possess stepped aside. There were many times at which, acquired they genuinely cherished the Lord and wanted the best for their church, they would have acknowledged their disqualification from any kind of public ministry and then quietly backed away. They would have displayed their particular love for the Lord by their willingness to abandon the platform they had proven themselves unworthy of. There might still have been scandal, but it would have been tempered by their legitimate repentance, their authentic willingness to leave behind all the advantages that came with their platform. It would happen to be tempered if only that they had shown humility simply by initiating their own departure.
But that is not the way it goes, is it? No one ever resigns. Nobody ever steps aside. No one ever provides such integrity which he counts himself disqualified and removes themselves from public ministry. Or very few, anyhow. I can count on a singke hand the men that have quietly and under your own accord stepped aside just before an outcry caused it to be necessary; I’d run out of fingers and toes before We came to the end of the list of men that have waited until the scandal broke and who raised all manner of demonstration when they were compelled out.
Why is this? Why do this few resign, even if they know they have got committed scandalous, disqualifying sins? What retains them from responding rightly when they possess fallen into great depravity?
In some instances it is because they are genuinely evil, genuinely hypocritical, genuinely using the Christian world as a means to gain access to fame, prosperity, and victims. In other cases, they are self-deceived, convinced that the final sin was the final sin, that this time their repentance is genuine, that the feel dissapointed they now really feel will keep them through ever doing it again. Besides, isn’t it obvious that they are doing this much good for the Lord that his trigger would be harmed when they were to own their own sin or get rid of themselves from ministry? Isn’t all their ministry success proof that God is looking over their sin, which he wants them to keep on? Plus, what else are they qualified to do with a degree in theology and a career invested entirely within the Alfredia bubble? And so for these reasons and many others, those who have disqualified themselves continue on until the scandal finally breaks or cracks, until the church responds with shock, until the world reacts along with scorn.
It is admirable when anyone who has committed disqualifying bad thing acknowledge they are no longer worthy of their platform or office and who, in sorrow and true repentance, step aside plus disappear from the public eye. Though their sins are genuine and terrible, these people show evidence of God’s grace by their reaction to it. Even as these people face the consequences, they must be commended for addressing it rightly. Alternatively, it is deplorable when those who have committed disqualifying sin refuse to acknowledge they are no longer worth their platform or even office and who also, in pride and error, remain in the public eye until their own day finally comes.
The Scriptures calls all Christians to be above reproach, to have unquestionable character, to have a life that is so consistent that no blame or disgrace can be attached with it. Pastors (and surely any the others with a public platform) are expected to exemplify this virtue. When they have been involved in a scandal that, if found out, would bring reproach upon Christ and his church, the best and wisest and holiest thing they can do is to protect Christ’s cause by removing themselves from public ministry. This is a display of true repentance, a proof of genuine remorse.
(This is the third article on this theme. See also Death to the One-Year Rule! which talks about the tendency to return to ministry far too soon, and Don’t Drop the Rock! which talks about the great damage that comes to the entire church through scandalous sin. )