The world has fallen on hard times. People are feeling low. Pressure and uncertainty are all around. Overcoming is not easy.
When we talk about rising to the occasion, we understand that it takes something extra from within to come out alive and triumphantly. Not everyone, however, will rise above tumultuous waters. In times like this, when it is sink or swim, the strength of many will fail, and sink some will.
In the best of times, the best of people still fail. In the worst of times, everything is exposed to the elements. Stars will fall, and people will get hurt.
The dilemma of Christian preachers having massive moral failures is nothing new. It has happened before and will happen again. The response of the church in this area is proof that practice does not always make perfect. We have often responded badly, many times making the collateral damage worse than it need be. We still make celebrities out of our leaders and forget that God commanded his people not to worship the stars, but the creator. Because of this, our disappointments can be as consuming as our admiration once was. A pastor I know once said so wisely: ‘Don’t make an idol out of me. If you do, God will have to let me fall.’
When Christian leaders and Christians themselves fail, the judgement of hypocrisy is quick to come to the party. Many will cry hypocrite, but perhaps none judge so loudly as the voice inside the Christians mind. Does this dilemma mean the Christian is not righteous, but instead a hypocrite?
No, not at all.
We are familiar with the cliché rebuke against the Sunday morning saint and weekday sinner. The implied message is that those who live like this are not true believers. But is the cliché true?
One of the best pieces of advice I have heard from a pastor was when he told the congregation that their true identity is the one who loves and worships God on Sunday, not the one who engages old and sinful habits during the week. You are not a hypocrite at heart. You are a lover of God.
In Psalm 40, David declares that his heart is full of the law of God and His righteousness. He reminds God that he never refrained from preaching and declaring the righteous ways of God to the masses. David was a preacher. He, and everyone else, understood that he was a man of God. Yet in the very same psalm David complains that his own iniquities are imprisoning him and that they are more in number than the hairs of his head! A few of those sins are not a secret.
Was David a massive hypocrite or a true heir?
How shall we remember him, and in what way can it affect our response to other’s failings?
Surely, we should esteem King David as God did. No matter how right we may feel, we are never more wrong than when in disagreement with God. Should not God’s opinion shape our opinion of ourselves and others? Did the law disappear from Israel because they broke it? Does God dishonour His covenant with his own people?
As a member of the Pentecostal/charismatic stream of Christianity, I am familiar with finger-waving Christians ready to prove that despite all the public displays of affection for God and spirituality, deep down we are just emotional, unholy hypocrites. Of course, this assessment is unfair and not shared by all. In truth, from home groups to mega churches, in every denomination, we have self-appointed judges in abundance.
The Christian who fails is still family.
Yes, every community and family must have boundaries and discipline, for preservation and protection. Sin harms sinner and saint. Yet the Israelite who sinned remained an Israelite. Non practising Jews are still regarded as Jewish. Repentance is possible with every next breath. Why are Christians, who follow the man who took forgiveness further than anyone, the first to denounce the identity of their own for certain transgressions?
The gift of repentance is the grace to return to God, who is our source, and if God is truly our source, is it not also a return to our true selves?
The good Father of Jesus’s parable would not allow the son to return to a lower state than that which he began with. The son remained a Son just as his Father remained his Father. In contrast with the motivational preaching of today, our attitude DOES NOT determine our altitude. The Father’s belief is faithful when we are faithless.
Should fallen preachers be hushed through the back door in restoration, or should we silence ourselves because iniquity is choking us?
Is shame the portion of the fallen preacher or Christian? David prayed: ‘Let them be ashamed and confounded, let them be driven backward and put to shame who wish me evil.’
Shame belongs to those who wish to expose others.
Our response should be that of David: ‘Let all those who love your salvation say continually, the Lord be magnified!’
In times like these, many of us are going to stumble. Let us make forgiveness our focus again.
For those who feel that they have spent all their chances and are beyond God’s grace, let me point out to you an overlooked aspect of the parable of the prodigal son: The Inheritance was inexhaustible.
We have a good, good Father.
Joshua Robbie is currently serving the Lord under Pastors Ronnie and Shirley Naidoo of KZN Celebration Centre in Tongaat South Africa. He and His wife Rene’ moved from Australia to South Africa in April 2016. Their desire is to help in whatever way they can so that the church can become all that God has purposed her to be. Josh is a painter by trade and also enjoys sports such as surfing, basketball and boxing. He has also written a book, now available for purchase on Amazon called: “Your Father sees: Living the sermon on the mount”.Josh Robbie previous articles may be viewed http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/josh-robbie.html