Across from me, on the sofa, sat someone I considered a close friend. I tried to absorb her words. “Pastor committed adultery.”
At the time, my fragile faith easily shattered. I fully trusted no man as I uncovered, time after time, the betrayal in my own memories that I had stuffed inside out of survival. I struggled to process what she told me. A small amount of trust in our pastor had been built over time, but now the crashing and burning of it imminently loomed.
What was my friend’s motivation? Was she lying to smear his reputation? Could the charges be true?
I made the call to hear for myself. A few days later, our pastor welcomed me to come into his office, but I could hear something in his voice. Regret maybe?
A few weeks before, he had approached me after church, saying gently that he wanted to be a father figure to me. Did he? Could I trust him if he had committed such a sin?
As I sat across from his desk, I reluctantly asked the burning question. His head bowed. I saw tears collecting in his eyes. With the pain of grief, he locked eyes with me. “I know how much this may hurt you,” he sighed. “But I have to be honest with you. You need to know the truth because you have lived with so many lies.” His voice broke as he continued. “I have lived with regret for most of the time as a pastor.”
I swallowed hard. I wished I could put my fingers in my ears. Was I really ready to hear this confession? Would it crush my trust further? Why had I even come? Why was I driven to know what was in this man’s closet?
He proceeded to tell me that, as a young pastor, he grew arrogant, thinking himself above a fall. He spent too much time alone with his attractive secretary, emotionally attaching to her while his wife held down the home front. And he fell. Fell hard. It had happened years before, but the blow still felt fresh in the gut.
He made no excuses for his behavior. Simply with great remorse, he asked me to forgive him. He regretted being one more male figure, especially pastor figure, who had failed me: one more man on the list who now I would question, struggle to trust.
Years later, I totally respect this man. He fell, yes, but he didn’t hide it. He repented. He didn’t blame his failure on someone or something else. He owned it even though it had happened way before me. The regret he lived with for the rest of his ministry, the rest of his life was palpable. This act would remain a thorn in his side even though he knew he was forgiven by the Lord and had received Christ’s forgiveness.
Coming from the stance of the one abused, hearing such a story did further shatter my trust in the beginning. Some would even say, “How could you extend trust toward such a man now? He didn’t deserve it.” This man, however, like David in the Bible, truly repented, turned, and tried to make things right the best he could. Like David paid the price of his firstborn son from Bathsheba, he also had consequences.
For my former pastor, the dark cloud periodically hung over his head even if he felt it would be for the rest of his life. There are consequences to our behavior. What we do does affect people, sometimes for generations passed us. Yet God forgave this man. And so did I.
There are others in leadership who are wolves in sheep’s clothing, who like the enemy, are seeking those they can devour. These, like Saul, who refused to repent, will eventually face the Great Judge who brings all to the light.
One of my life chapters in the Bible is Psalms 32, TPL. It is the cry of repentance from David’s heart. As I read it this week, a different part caught my attention. “This what I’ve learned through it all: All believers should confess their sins to God; do it every time God has uncovered you in the time of exposing. For if you do this, when sudden storms of life overwhelm, you’ll be kept safe.” The time of exposing, hmm.
See, God is really good, merciful, and full of grace. There is a time frame He gives all of us to turn, to allow Him to uncover things in our lives, the secret things, the behind-closed-door things. If we will allow Him to convict us, bring truth to us, repent, and bring healing to us, then, when the storms of life come, we will be kept safe.
If we refuse His prodding, His gentle leading, His convicting, then we will still experience exposure, but it will be through the hard storms of life where we will not be kept safe.
All of us have things in our hearts that need to be uncovered and dealt with by the Lord. Some just have more severe consequences than others.
Sadly, for church leadership, church culture has made it much more difficult for them to be vulnerable. This is no excuse for the wolves, mind you. Please hear me say all of us need to be held accountable for the things we do. It’s called the Body, a family, a community of believers.
Seemingly, across the board, church leaders have been made into celebrities, put on pedestals, and are looked to as gods with others idolizing them. They aren’t allowed to be human, make mistakes, be vulnerable. For that matter, how many sitting in the pews are willing to be vulnerable with each other? Aren’t we mostly waiting for someone to cast the first stone?
Often, those in leadership aren’t held accountable for their actions. This breeds abuse. If exposure does happen, it’s hidden, and people turn their heads the other way until it directly hurts them. If it is dealt with, then, oftentimes, the leaders are left on the side of the road bleeding while the next great man of God comes on the scene.
I really believe we are getting ready to experience one of the greatest shifts in the Body of Christ that has ever occurred, and I believe that time frame of exposing by the Lord in grace is coming to an end for many people. Something has got to change in us, in our mindsets, in our hearts.
We are all called to be kings and priests before the Lord, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. There was never supposed to be a go-between. We all are meant to have Jesus as our head, and we are all the Body even though we have different functions.
Yes, we will always have some form of leadership just as a family has fathers and mothers to lead the younger children until they grow up in maturity to be fathers and mothers. We are all to be accountable to each other, not in condemnation of one another but in love, holding each other to the standard of the Word and walking in grace.
When someone messes up, he or she should be confronted, counseled, restored if he or she is repentant. If this person refuses the time of exposing, then he or she is choosing the storms without protection. In other words, we are instructed to cut ties and let this person go, but that’s only if he or she refuses to repent when really involved in sinful things. In this case, there is nothing more that can be done but allow God to deal with him or her.
None of us is without sin. Though we are made new creations in Christ Jesus, we still struggle with our human nature like my former pastor did. Let’s not put our leaders on the pedestals but allow them to be vulnerable, human even. Let’s all be loving of one another.
I pray that we all seek love, hold on to mercy, and walk humbly with each other and our wonderful God. Doesn’t He deserve a bride worthy of Him? He will have her. He will make us ready.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on wholeheartedwomen.org
Featured Image by Ben White