A Proper View of Sin is Needed When a Christian Leader Falls
I am constantly curious by the reaction of Christians to the fall of a prominent Christian leader. Ranging from the “I knew that person would fall” to “my whole world is crashing down,” these reactions reveal our lack of understanding of the nature of sin and our susceptibility to it.
Recently I was listening to a podcast of Dr. R.C. Sproul on the total depravity of man and the nature of sin. This part of his teaching on the doctrines of grace and Reformed theology dealt with sin from an honest and biblical perspective. Dr. Sproul made a very poignant statement that Christians need to hear and understand. He said:
“There is no sin that a Christian is not capable of committing.”
This is a timely comment as many people become disillusioned by the fall of a Christian leader. If we become discouraged by the sin of another we are showing that we do not have a proper view of sin. If we believe for one minute that there is any person not capable of falling due to sin we are gravely mistaken.
Dr. Russell Moore recently wrote on how our response to the sin and fall of another is evidence of our misunderstanding of sin:
“Sometimes I find myself fuming after a leader has fallen at the stupidity of it. Why would he risk his family for this? Why would he jeopardize the witness of Christ? The reason I am so frustrated is because of my inadequate doctrine of sin. It doesn’t matter what I confess in creedal documents or teach from pulpits; when I am surprised by the irrationality of a particular sin, I am demonstrating that I’m a latent Pelagian of the heart. All sin is irrational and self-destructive. If we don’t get that, we don’t know what sin is. My reaction is a reminder to myself of how much I need the sanctifying presence of the Spirit.”
Dr. Moore goes on to say that on one hand our shock at the fall of a leader is understandable because “God has called leaders within the church to be above reproach (1 Tim 3:2).” But he also warns that we should not be shocked by the fall of a leader because “we are taught this explicitly in Scripture, with a warning not to be prideful lest we fall (1 Cor. 10:12-13).”
I would also suggest that our shock at the fall of a Christian leader – pastor, evangelist, etc. – reveals how little we truly know and believe Scripture. Let’s do a quick review of some of the most prominent figures in the Bible.
Moses led God’s people out of Egypt and through the desert. Moses was also guilty of killing a man and disobeying God’s direct instructions, which prevented him from entering the Promised Land.
David was a man after God’s own heart. David also committed adultery and conspired to have a man killed.
Peter walked with Jesus for 3 years and was part of the greatest evangelist ministry the world has ever known. Peter also denied he even knew Jesus not once, but three times.
These are just a few example but others could be cited: Noah’s drunkenness, Jacob’s deceitfulness, many of the prophets were given to despair and depression, and other disciples had doubt. And while these might not seem like a big deal, if the headlines were printed today the stories would be as big as many of the headlines that cause a ripple in the Christian community.
As Dr. Moore correctly points out, part of the problem is that we are only shocked by the sins of others while we seek to justify our own sin:
“The sins of others are always more shocking to us than our own sins. We are always able to ‘contextualize’ our sins, to find justifications for them, to weigh them against alternative sins we aren’t committing. That’s part of the power of deception. This sort of public scandal can expose how much we are unaware of what it takes to fight against sin.”
The reality is that each of us is capable of any sin imaginable. Our hearts are so wicked that there is not a sin conceivable that we are not capable of committing. This should not be discouraging for us but, rather, it should help us understand just how dependent on the grace of Christ we truly are. We have absolutely no ability to live this life outside the grace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. And until we believe that singular truth we will continue to be shocked by the sin of others and justify our own sin.
Our daily prayer needs to be for the Holy Spirit to reveal our stubborn sin, the sin we are most blinded to. Rather than focus on the sins of others we should seek to remove the sin from our own lives. As we live in community with other believers we should seek accountability and ask those around us to lovingly point out our sin. Only by doing this will be learn to walk humbly in the grace of Jesus and live properly in Christian community.