Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15
Scandal in the world of sport, business, or the corporate world always hits the front pages! People yell and scream, “We have been betrayed! Those whom we trusted lied to us and ripped us off!” But when there is scandal in the church, many people walk out the door and say, “When I’m betrayed by those whom I trusted, I’m not coming back!”
Question: Is the church any different? Or should I ask rather, “Should it be different?” The reality is that it isn’t much different from the corporate world, the world of research and education, and the political arena. Some, lacking the discipline to curb their lust and passions, fail, not heeding the very Gospel they preach and teach. The result is scandal that angers and bewilders us. You detest scandal in the world; but when it hits the church, and much like the world does, the church minimizes it, ignores it, or tries to hide it, you quickly become disillusioned.
In his book, The Integrity Crisis, published in 1988, Warren Wiersbe says, “For … centuries, the church has been telling the world to admit its sins, repent, and believe the Gospel. Today…the world is telling the church to face up to her sins, repent, and start being the true church of that gospel” (Thomas Nelson and Co., Nashville, TN, p. 17).
When the church becomes a reflection of the world rather than a bastion which stands against the sins of the world, the line of demarcation between the holy and the profane, between the secular and the sacred, and between moral and immoral is obscured. Thus we cry, “Physician, heal thyself!” As Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted” (Henry David Thoreau, Walden Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971, p. 74).
What perplexes people is not why there is scandal in the church. While most people expect more of clergy than they do of businessmen or professionals, they still acknowledge that the best of men are but men at their best. True, some individuals disappoint them, but for every disappointment, there are a thousand who stand stalwartly for God and morality.
What bothers them is the hesitance or refusal to acknowledge moral and spiritual failure and to take corrective measures, insuring that individuals who fall short of the standard are defrocked and put out of commission, guaranteeing that no one else will be molested or harmed.
Long ago the writer of Proverbs said, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). People will forgive almost anything, but when there is wrongdoing and church leaders refuse to acknowledge or confess that sin, an act of indiscretion quickly escalates into an unforgivable sin.
OK, so do you have cause to abandon the church, stop going and practicing your faith, or become a practical atheist? Answer your own question by asking if you withdrew your money from the bank when there was a scandal and bank officers absconded with millions. Did you vow never again to eat in a restaurant after you got food poisoning at that beans and taco place that served bad chicken? Do you no longer watch sports on TV or give up shooting hoops with your friends because someone was corrupt? No, of course not. Neither should you give up on God or cease to practice your faith or stop going to church when some who should know and do better disappoint you.
Regardless of its failures and shortcoming, the church is still where we meet God, confess our own sins and failure, and pray for those who disappoint us.
Resource reading: Jeremiah 3.