When a Christian leader sins, you’ll want to unfollow them on Instagram and burn their books and reject every truth they ever taught you but apparently didn’t live themselves. Your stomach will hurt, your head will ache, and you’ll feel like throwing up. While your emotions are churning, here are six truths to remember that will serve as salve for your soul.
Six Truths to Remember When a Christian Leader Sins
Only God is good. Jesus said it Himself in Mark 10:18: “No one is good except God alone.” Boy, we forget this all the time, don’t we? We set men and women up on pedestals and follow them rather than following the God to whom they’re pointing. Always remember that anything good you see in a Christian leader—if it truly is good—is only a result of Jesus Christ making His home in them.
Truth is still truth, whether they lived it or not.Romans 1:18 doesn’t say man’s unrighteousness disproves the truth—He says it suppresses the truth. This is why God’s wrath is revealed from heaven, because He takes the truth very seriously! Truth is still truth—even if it’s hard to distinguish it through the lie of their life. It’s also entirely possible that they twisted the truth. Open your Bible, and search out truth for yourself. Don’t just do this when a leader fails but anytime a leader teaches or writes or preaches (Acts 17:11).
“But for the grace of God, there go I.” Be careful if you think you’re above ever stooping to that level. We’re warned in 1 Corinthians 10, “Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” (vv. 12–13). You will probably be tempted in a similar way someday. When that happens, God promises He’ll provide a way of escape (v. 13)—it’ll be up to you to take it. When that happens, run far, far away as fast as your little legs will take you. Don’t linger and dream about what it might be like to toy with sin just a little.
God still loves them. Their sin hasn’t “chilled” God’s love for them. Remember, He died for them while they were still His enemies (Rom. 5:10)! The fact that their sin was discovered by others is actually God’s mercy. Romans 2:4 tells us that God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. If they don’t repent and trust in Christ’s righteousness on their behalf, you can be sure they’ll experience God’s wrath in the future (Rom. 2:5). But for now, He waits patiently, kindly, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
Repentance is a process. If you’re like me, you’ll expect that leader to repent immediately. To confess their sin and bring it out into the light and turn from it back to the Lord. That’s certainly God’s desire, too! But this won’t always happen right away.When King David (a man who genuinely loved God) had sex with another man’s wife and then had that man murdered in order to cover up his sin, it was at least nine months before he acknowledged, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Sam. 12:13). Pray that God would give the leader you looked up to godly sorrow leading to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10).
Not everyone who claims to be a Christ-follower actually is one. First John 2:19 tells us that only the person who finishes well was actually ever saved: “If they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” Not that believers never stumble (remember King David!). But if they really are Christ-followers, you will see them repent and return to their original faith in Christ’s righteousness on their behalf.
If you’ve ever had a Christian leader sin big time, what other truths have you clung to? If it hasn’t happened to you yet, is there someone you need to take off your pedestal? Remember, no one but God is ultimately good.
And don’t forget to pray for that Christian leader in your life. A great prayer is found at the end of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13: “Lead [them] not into temptation, but deliver [them] from evil.” Which Christian leader can you commit to praying for regularly?
You notice him right away. The new guy at youth group.
He’s seriously good looking. You try to focus on the open Bible on your lap, but the letters blur together.
He answers a question, and you listen carefully. He nailed it. So he’s model material AND he knows God’s Word, you celebrate.
But only for a second. Pull it together. You shake your head and force your attention back on what the youth pastor is saying.
After a few minutes you raise your hand, share a thought, and . . . Mr. Model catches your eye and smiles!
You don’t get much out of youth group that day; you’re too busy praying the new guy will ask you out or at least talk to you. Hey, you’d even settle for him following you on Twitter!
It’s hard, isn’t it? Christian guys can seem like an endangered species. So when one day the heavens open and an eye-turning Christian guy is dropped into your life, your brain instantly jumps into high gear trying to figure out how to get his attention. (Let’s be honest, you know the other girls’ antennae are up, so you want to snag him before they do!)
In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to think of the new stranger as more than a potential boyfriend. But let’s face it. He is more . . . a whole lot more.
He’s your forever brother. If he trusts in Jesus’ righteousness rather than his own, he’s your blood-bought brother in Christ. You’ll spend forever with him, right there along with Jesus Himself.
So will you ask God to help you view the Christian guys around you as more than potential boyfriends—as forever brothers in Christ? Here are a few practical tips:
Pray for them. Pray the very best for them. Pray that they’d be kept from temptation. Pray that their enjoyment of Jesus would grow like crazy. Pray whatever the Spirit leads you to pray for them.
Encourage them. Rather than admiring them from a distance, let them know when you see Jesus in them.
Don’t dress to distract them; dress in such a way that they’ll be able to worship Jesus without extra temptation and distraction each Sunday.
After all, that’s how we’re told to relate to guys—even the really cute ones!—as brothers, in all purity:
Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity (1 Tim. 5:1–2).
How can you treat the Christian guys near you as more than potential boyfriends?
If Jesus says we can expect persecution (and He does), then I sure want to know how to prepare for persecution. So with the help of Thomas Watson’s book The Beatitudes, I came up with the following eight ways to prepare for persecution:
1. Get to know Jesus better. In the words of Watson, “A man can never die for him he does not know.” Are you satisfied with what you know of Christ, or do you long for an even closer friendship with Him?
2. Store up God’s Word in your heart—especially His promises to those who suffer for Him. Promises like Matthew 10:28-33, Mark 10:29-30, Psalm 91:14-16, 1 Corinthians 10:13 and Matthew 10:19-20.
3. Read the stories of those who have been persecuted for Jesus. Sure, some of the details may make you squeamish, but these stories will infuse you with courage and give you examples to imitate. My recent favorite is Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. There are so many more, like the story of Perpetua, a courageous woman who died in AD 203.
4. Don’t be so quick to always defend yourself; trust God to be your Defender. This is tough. We’re proud, and proud people tend to think they’re above suffering. Are you willing to let go of your high opinion of yourself and trust God with your reputation?
5. Replace fear of man with a healthy fear of God. Jesus puts it like this in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [men]. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell [God].”
6. Treasure truth. In a world filled with lies and confusion, wholeheartedly seek after truth and lovingly share it with others. Don’t be easily swayed by people’s words and arguments. Examine everything you hear against the truth of God’s Word to test whether or not it’s true (Acts 17:11).
7. Pursue righteousness. Jesus says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:10, emphasis added). Run from evil. Repent of your sin. Keep a clear conscience before God. Pursue Him.
8. Look for ways to deny yourself rather than always pampering yourself. I used to know a guy who regularly slept on the floor rather than in a bed. I’m not recommending that, but if you always choose the very best for yourself, you’ll have a hard time when you experience real suffering. Besides, Jesus told His followers in Matthew 16:24–25, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
“Before a man can die for Christ he must be dead to the world,” Thomas Watson said. The apostle Paul lived that way. In Galatians 6:14 he said, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
How do you plan on preparing for the very real possibility of persecution? Tell me about it.