When someone falls into sin, addiction, abuse, lying, cheating, pornography, well anything….nothing left out…..how should we react? What should be our view? Our words? Our support or non-support? Where is the line drawn? Is there a line to even draw? How do we help restore? NOW, I know we all have “our” opinions….but what is God’s opinion?
There are people in all walks of life that are good, God loving people along with people who are not God followers. People who fall into some type of sin, addictions, actions….secret things that sometimes shock us and rock our world. I want to focus on the “religious” world in this post although I believe the principles relate both to secular and spiritual people.
This is such a complex subject with many different levels surrounding it. We react many ways when a brother or sister falls down. Some of the reasons we react negative to this is:
1. Pride, it makes me more “spiritual” than they are
2. Deflection, it takes the light off of me and my sin, faults, secrets.
3. Position, it puts me in a greater position than they are.
4. Anger, the actions of the person somehow reflects who I am
There are so many reasons we react the way we do. In this post I will attempt to show how we react and how God reacts. MY THOUGHTS on how people should react and how the church should react. It will be taken out of my own life, my experiences on both sides of the fence. I have been the one who has sinned, fallen and I have been the one in position that needed to deal with one who has sinned/fallen.
One of my first memories after being a Christian in any type of leadership position seeing someone fall was when I was in a church in Fremont Ca. I was in school and in a leadership role in the church, this church was on fire and growing like crazy. The senior pastor helped me in so many ways and is a huge part of why I became a pastor and finished school. I loved this guy and I loved this church. One day the head line news on all the major news stations was about a pastor in Colorado who had disappeared and the search was on for him. Within a day or so it came out that he was in some serious trouble with the IRS, personal and business…he FAKED his death and was on the run. The world knew about it and people were outraged, Christians were horrible along with rest of the world. Well it turned out the man was a personal friend of my pastor. I went to him thinking we would be angry together etc…. I walked into his office expecting anger and rage but he was weeping. I asked him how he was doing and he said he was boarding a plane to go get his friend, bring him to his house and help nurse him back to full “spiritual” health. He did just that!! He did whatever it took to get there and get him to bring him home to just ‘love on him”. I was amazed, shocked and confused. But that memory will never leave me!! I really thought as Christians we were suppose to “protect” the church, and get him out after all he put another HUGE black mark on God’s Church!! I learned much that day…but surely not enough for I have made so many mistakes in the years of ministry.
There was Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Baker, and so many other well known leaders not to mention the thousands of leaders, pastors that fell from grace in the churches in our world. Most never to heard from again.
The goal is/should always be restoration. I would like to know how many have been restored over the years. I know some are back in ministry and they still have to live with the “talk” or I should say GOSSIP as they try to enter back into ministry.
As a pastor I really had no clue when it came to this…I thought I did, but in reality I did NOT. Early in my ministry I didn’t know how to deal with things, I was so scared of losing people, not having a church any longer, I was ignorant of any type of counseling and yet was expected to be a counselor. Later I tried dealing with issues as they came up in lives of the congregation and most of the time I thought of protecting the church more than the soul of the person I was suppose to be helping. And in the last years I was afraid to confront and do right because of my own secrets I had in my life. I never wanted to cause any ripples so that nobody would look at my life. I did everything wrong in this area. And in reality did much more harm than good. Get them out of the way….Lord please forgive me!!!!
When it came to people with addictions, deep rooted things in their lives, sins, anger, divorce, just about anything I did it wrong.
On the flip side when I fell I heard from most people how it affected them… what it did to their lives, how it made them feel, how it angered, hurt and crushed them. I WANT TO SAY I GET THAT!!!!! And I do get it totally ~ 100%. I don’t blame anyone for feeling that way and part of my healing was to see that in the lives of people around me. SO please do not mis-read what I am saying.
In my case I take 100% responsibility for what happened, it was my fault, my doing, my choice. With that said when one gets tangled up in a situation, it’s a slow process it just doesn’t happen…..by the time it’s full blown out of control most don’t even realize what had happened or how they ended up in a place like this! How it went so far….the deception is deep and as for me I was convinced/deceived into believing lies and could not see past my own selfish thoughts and desires. It was a long road back to reality and truth. It was a wake up when my eyes were opened but it took losing everything in my life to see it!!! When it happened I was devastated, hurting like I’ve never hurt before. Nobody knew what to do or how to react except my counselor. He just loved me and had hope for me, he loved me as God loved me.
Family does not know, friends do not know, the church does not know how to handle such things. Like I said earlier people around me all told me how it affected them, the church wanted me out FAST and NOW….the goal in church leadership was to “restore” and I think they tried as hard as they could the best they knew how. BUT there is a deeper issue here, there is a time of healing and restoring LOVE over everything else. I can speak from my own experience…… I understand there is a process that has to be gone through when it comes to such things, but when someone is devastated, just lost it all they really can’t think in a logical way.
There is a HUGE difference between someone who is rebellious, not repentant and does not think they did anything wrong and someone that is repenting. At the same time repentance is a process that you go through….I know that sounds “wrong” you either repent or you don’t…….but there is an element of things coming up in your spirit and in your mind. It depends on the depth of the sin/addiction.
I know my wife got it for the most part – she stood between me and people for a long time knowing what I was going through – it was almost a year before I could even bring myself to see anyone, be around anyone….why? guilt and shame….brokenness, repentance, and trying to find my way back to my Father. In church circles rumors and gossip fly around like crazy, in the community secular world it was worse. I heard some pretty crazy rumors (lies) during this time. Most people didn’t know what to say to me…….and some just discarded me. I will say that I stayed away from people too. Some gave me space and a couple gave me “unconditional love” and time. It was very difficult.
Please understand I am NOT angry, or bitter towards anyone….like I said I get it, I know it was my fault….here is where I stand now coming out the other side. For people to treat sin, see sin, understand the person who fell into it they must be “Christlike” period. How can we see a man or woman as God does if we are NOT? We cannot period!!!!!!
What does it mean to be Christlike? How does God see it? How does God respond? How should we respond? This will be the subject to my next blog — PART 2.