The truth will mess you up.
– Radiohead, Ful Stop
This isn’t about excusing the recent rash of disqualified Christian leaders or making light of the transgressions which led to their demise in ministry. This isn’t about saying there shouldn’t be consequences for our sins or pitting compassion against justice. This also isn’t about hedging my bets or hiding some heinous sin for me personally. This is simply stating a truth – a truth every person who has the privilege of leading God’s people as a pastor needs to remember. It’s one that can keep you from self-righteous grandstanding when news that a celebrity (or non-celebrity) pastor bites the dust. It’s one which can remind your heart that God’s grace has been, is, and will be the only hope you have. It’s a truth that can keep you on your knees a moment longer in grateful prayer.
What’s the truth?
If God so desired to expose the secrets of your heart,
you too would be disqualified from ministry.
Ministry veterans won’t argue it. They know themselves too well. If you find yourself pushing back, well then, you don’t. Among the fine and beautiful things in your heart, there are also lusts, hatreds, envies, and other gross sins that would likely ruin people’s perception of you, your ministry, and your qualifications for leadership.
Know this my friend: had God in his justice wanted to expose you, you would be done. So would I. Fini. Kaput. Finished. Just another name added to the list of other fallen pastors. Really.
Let me give you some advice. Search your own heart. Think about the dark places of thought, word, and deed in which you’ve privately commerced. It’s not that you’re proud of them or haven’t sought to repent well of them, but they’re there. Just like they are in every man or woman who’s trying to follow Jesus. And God knows every ruinous one of them. As King David says in Psalm 139:2, the Sovereign Lord of the Universe has “discerned [our] thoughts from afar.”
But don’t despair. All of us need of the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Every one. Even more, our hope shouldn’t be anchored to our righteousness (or lack thereof), but anchored to the One who has been righteous for us. Indeed, I pray the goodness of that reality spurs me on to love Jesus more and my sin less, and that I grow in personal holiness while fleeing from the sins which so easily entangle me. But until Jesus returns, I will still struggle with sin. And so will you.
So the next time you hear of a pastor losing his ministry because his sin was exposed to the public, please understand that if the Lord so chose to make public what’s been private in your heart, you’d be next. And so would I.
Pastor, be thankful for the grace you’ve been given today. May it lead you to greater obedience, a deeper humility, and a ready compassion.