When a Spiritual Leader Falls
“WHO did WHAT?!”
Reeling, you wait, hoping the answer won’t be what you thought you heard the first time.
Your cheeks flush as the truth seeps in, unthinkable, venomous, working its way through your system, numbing your thoughts, choking your normal, and melting your heart right into your belly, where it begins to churn and nauseate.
What now? Well, if you are a parent, physical or spiritual, there is work to be done, and quickly. It’s up to you to present the information to your children–whoever they may be–as God would have you to before the Enemy gets hold of them.
Here’s what to tell them.
- Don’t be surprised.
In the history of the world, only Jesus ever lived a perfect, sinless life (Hebrews 4:15). The rest of us, saved or not, make mistakes. We sin (Romans 3:23). Someday, the work God began in those of us who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior will be complete in Heaven (Philippians 1:6). Until then, even the best of us will struggle against the sin nature that comes with the skin and bones we wear. Even Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, struggled against the tendency to sin (Romans 7:15-25). This being true, we shouldn’t be surprised when a mere human being fails to live up to our expectations, and we can’t let their failures shake our spiritual foundation or resolve to obey God in our own lives.
- Don’t be fooled.
The Enemy may have won a battle, having been given permission to do so by someone who either let their spiritual guard down or never actually knew Jesus personally, but God is still very much in control and working all things, the good and the bad, together for the good of His children (Romans 8:28). With or without our individual cooperation, God promises to bring about the purpose of His will one way or another (Ephesians 1:11). God cannot and will not be defeated and is a permanent, eternal spiritual refuge for those who put their faith and trust in Him (Psalm 46:1), more than capable of working in, through, or around any decisions people make and/or actions people take. Even if the actions of others cost us our lives, our spirits are forever His, and our eternity is secure (Ephesians 1:14).
- Don’t be discouraged.
What probably feels like a spiritual setback may actually be a step forward. The Bible tells us to expose the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 4:11)—this is not an encouragement to gossip, but a charge to name sin to those with the ability to do something about it. Your knowing what has taken place is evidence of darkness having been exposed. No longer able to pretend, the person caught in sin must now face the consequences of that sin and deal with God honestly. If they respond appropriately to God’s loving discipline (Hebrews 12:7-9) and repent, they will be forgiven (1 John 1:9) and feel close to God again or be saved and transformed into something brand new. If not, God will continue to deal with them. Either way, they aren’t fooling themselves or anyone else anymore.
Christians watching the situation play out may begin to think more carefully about their own decisions, consider how their decisions affect others, and/or repent of sin in their own lives. All of these are good things. Furthermore, those affected or hurt by the individual at fault now have a unique opportunity to experience God as Comforter, Healer, Counselor, Friend, etc. They may find salvation in Jesus or gain experience that they can use to comfort others in the future (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).
Regardless, if those of us who belong to God run to and lean on Him rather than our own wisdom, we will prove Him faithful, lending credibility to the Gospel in the eyes of those who are considering surrendering their lives to Him and paving the way for them to find the peace that we have found in Jesus—beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
Once you’ve bandaged wounds, pick your children up, set them back on their feet, and propel them in the right direction with the following instructions so they can make the most of this unique, although painful, opportunity to further the Kingdom.
Contrary to popular belief, love is not an emotion; affection is. Love is mercy and grace, the conscious choice to withhold deserved condemnation and extend undeserved favor to another person (John 3:16). Never is love more powerful than when there is no logical reason to demonstrate it. In such circumstances, it takes supernatural effort, which is why we must take advantage unique opportunities to illustrate God’s love by showing grace and mercy to the people who do wrong and/or hurt us.
People are watching, and our ability to love when there is no rational reason to do so proves the presence of something supernatural within us, empowering us, enabling us, and compelling us to do that which we cannot and would not do on our own. That something is His Holy Spirit. Our faithfulness to show love forces those who don’t know Jesus to consider the truth of the Gospel at work in our lives and could potentially lead to their salvation.
True children of God, those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and surrendered their lives to Him, are never helpless. We have the ability to communicate with God directly through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26-27). What’s more, He has promised to give us anything that we ask for that matches up with His will (1 John 5:14-15)! He reveals His will to us as we pray (Philippians 2:13) and allows us to take part in bringing His will about. Our prayers are conduits for His unlimited power at work in this world and in the hearts of others. You can make a difference! Seek God. Listen. Pray what you hear, and wait expectantly for the results. They will come in His timing.
- Take action.
You cannot change the past, but you can affect the future, your own and that of those around you, protecting yourself and equipping others against a repeat of what has happened and/or future tragedies. As the Bible tells us, don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:17). Spend time not only reading your Bible, but meditating on it and memorizing it so that when you are tempted—we are ALL tempted, even Jesus (Matthew 4)—you will have your weapon ready (Psalm 119:11, Ephesians 6:17). Be proactive in teaching others to do the same.
Give others permission to correct you when you make poor choices or exhibit a bad attitude and be bold in checking up on your brothers and sisters in Christ. Step in and speak up when the Holy Spirit tells you to before it’s too late (Jude 1:23). Set your heart and mind and will on pleasing God and you won’t fall (1 John 3:6). You may stumble—when you do, confess it, accept God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and move on, not letting it hang you up or get you down or giving the Enemy a foothold (Ephesians 4:27)—but you will not fall.
No matter how close to the situation you may be, no matter how much you might be affected personally, it’s imperative that you follow your own advice so those whom you’ve instructed can look to you as an example worth following, especially now that someone they once looked up to has let them down.
Doing so won’t take the hurt away, and you don’t have to pretend it does. In fact, emotional transparency will add weight to your words. What better opportunity to illustrate true discipleship and demonstrate the importance of obedience to God in all situations than when you are hurting as a direct result of another’s frailty and disobedience?
Be faithful. Be real. Keep putting one foot in front of the other, friend, and what the Enemy intended for evil, the Father will use for good (Genesis 50:20).