There are sadly many high profile stories of Christian leaders falling into sin. We all sin, even very high profile Christian leaders, everyday. But when some of these leaders are falling into adultery, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse or even child molestation people are forced to stop and ask themselves what could have happened. Christians may shake their heads at these leaders or even cast them out as having never been truly saved as a way to distance themselves from the bad press. Non-Christians use these examples to try and prove that Christians are no different than the rest of the world.
So what is going on? Why are such amazing men and women of God committing such disgusting and obviously wrong sins? I heard a Pastor share a story about a year ago on this topic. He said when he was growing up there was a high profile Christian man who fell into adultery with his secretary. This high profile Christian leader had written many books and was well-respected by the Christian community. He was certainly not a wolf in sheep’s clothing and truly loved God. So what happened? Well this Pastor, during his seminary days, had the chance to interview this high profile Christian leader and asked him just that. The Pastor asked this question: “How could a man who loves Jesus and desires to honor and serve Him do such a terrible thing?”
The response of this Christian leader was this: “Because I didn’t realize I was capable of such evil.” Wow. This Christian leader loved God and spent his entire life trying to see God’s name glorified. Yet, he had forgotten that he was but flesh. He had become so removed from how evil he was that he didn’t ever worry about such a thing because he felt he would never fall into such a terrible sin.
And this, I fear, is where many Christians are today. We have been good, Jesus loving Christians for such a long time we can’t even imagine that we would ever be capable of such a thing. Most of us think we have somehow graduated to a new level of Christianity where we are no longer susceptible to certain temptations of Satan. And while this idea is prevalent amongst Christians today, it is completely unbiblical. Consider the following verses:
In 1 Corinthians 10:12 Paul warns the Church in Corinth “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Anytime we think we have “arrived” or reached a level where we no longer have to worry about previous sins or struggles, we must beware. Typically this attitude is what leads Christians into some heinous sin that they never imagined they were capable of.
In Matthew 26:41 Jesus warns His sleepy disciples “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Our soul may long to honor Jesus but we are still fleshly and weak. As strong as our spiritual desire may be, we must always remember that our flesh is weak and prone to sin.
There are a number of other verses to consider as well, (Ephesians 2:8-9, Proverbs 16:18, the story of David and Bathsheeba, etc…), but my point is that as Christians, we must never forget what evil we are capable of. So today I briefly want to share three reasons why it is vital that we all remember that we are capable of extremely evil things and not treat any sin as if we could never fall into it.
First, it keeps us humble and reminds you that we are saved and made pure by Christ not our own effort. This is the idea behind Ephesians 2:8-9. It’s easy to compare our lives with others and start to feel a bit prideful. We are naturally good at finding people worse than us and then comparing our strengths to their weaknesses. This is also what the Pharisees did. We must remember that there is nothing good in us, (Romans 7:18), and that any progress we have made over sin in our lives has been by God’s grace. Realizing that you are, at any moment, capable of falling into heinous sin keeps us humble and dependent on Him who saved us.
Second, it helps us build guardrails into our lives so we can protect ourselves. The Christian leader mentioned above wasn’t careful about his time or attitude towards his secretary because he didn’t think he could ever fall. Rather, if he would have realized he is capable of falling into adultery, (like any of us are), and built guardrails into his life, (no being in a room with a woman alone, limit of amount of work being done together, having a male secretary, etc…), he may have never fallen into this sin.
It reminds me of the song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. In the song it says “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” This realization of our proclivity to wander from God is vital in keeping us close to Him. As we build guardrails into our lives around sins that could potentially ensnare us, when we do feel tempted or we do feel that desire to wander from God, (all Christians will be tempted with this at some point), we hit those guardrails and they kick us back on track towards God.
Third, it helps us to love and feel sympathy towards those who have fallen to sin rather than being judgmental. Christians today have a reputation for being judgmental. And while part of this is just a wicked culture unhappy that Christians won’t celebrate their wickedness, part of this is also true. When many people hear the above story of the Christian leader, our first reaction is often one of scorn, judgment and resentment that a Christian would allow themselves to do such a thing.
Again, this is not Biblical and is more closely how a Pharisee would react to such news than how a disciple of Jesus should. Instead of being judgmental and arrogantly harsh towards those who have fallen, we should be saddened, grieved by the sin that has happened, and take pity on the one who has fallen. Mathew 7:1-2 was written for those of us who struggle with this: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
This doesn’t mean that we tolerate or celebrate sin like the wicked culture around us does, but it does mean that if a brother or sister who has fallen into sin and has shown genuine repentance, (if they are not repentant or continue in the heinous sin then we are to treat them as a non-believer), then we should pity and desire to help restore them to a right relationship with Christ. Realizing that you are capable of equal evil helps you pity, love and restore rather than judge.
My hope and prayer is that each of us would realize that but for God’s amazing grace, we too could easily walk into truly terrible sins. You and I are all capable of committing gross sins no matter how long we have followed Christ. May we not fall into such sins by realizing how evil and capable of sin our weak flesh is. Rather, may this realization keep us humble before our God, help us guard ourselves from potential temptations and dangers and help us to pity and love those who have fallen. This is what Jesus’ Church should be and can be when we rely on His Holy Spirit and realize our evil human condition. Praise be to God that He saves and holds a people capable of truly evil things!