Let Down by Your Faith Leaders?

I got a news alert this morning that a lead pastor of one of the Hillsong campuses was busted in a sex scandal. Not the first of this kind of crisis to rock the megachurch monolith.

The late world-renowned evangelist and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias went to his eternal rest under a cloud of suspicion regarding sexual misconduct. Allegations have not only multiplied since he passed but have been corroborated. Turns out, while he brought the message of Christ to the masses, he existed in a very different world than we thought.

The evangelical Christian church. Praising God, filling mega-churches, supporting missions around the world. Trump worshippers, anti-maskers, and vaxxers, extending love to everyone as long as they fit a very specific profile.

What do you do when your faith leaders turn out to be anything but faithful people? What happens to your faith when the people you’ve looked up to as leaders, mentors, and examples show you just how very human they are?

The answer for many is to leave the entire thing. Rid oneself of the toxicity and hypocrisy of it all. Flee from the piety of the dishonest and never look back. It makes sense.

When people of faith who profess to live a life of Godliness live secret lives of anything but, a lot of folks are going to get hurt. Departing from the mess that is sometimes organized religion is logical to anyone who has suffered a crisis of faith as a result of the incredible letdown that occurs when things like this happen. I get it.

But here’s something to remember. The church is made of people. People are the church. And people screw up. Christ is not the church. He is above all of it. He does not screw up. When those whose very humanity—riddled with all their faults and shortcomings—reveal how very lost they truly are, it’s not Christ that is the problem.

My very bold statement: Christ and the church are not one and the same. So, when the church and its human leaders let you down, the fault lies not on Christ. If anything, He is the only good that will ever be found in all of it. Human beings are flawed. Christ is not.

The blunder of many believers, of people of faith, lies in exalting humans to being on par with Christ. Unconsciously or not, that is always a grave error. I have heard of pastors referred to as men and women of God, which is to sometimes elevate flawed humans to quasi-deities. So very wrong and blasphemous. Men and women work for God; they are not, in any way, working in the same realm as Him.

So, what does all this mean? The pastors and spiritual leaders who have lied, cheated, and abused while hidden behind a pulpit are as culpable and subject to accountability as any person. And they must be held up to their wrongdoing. It is Christ’s mercy and forgiveness that any redemption can be found.

But they don’t hold the keys to transformative faith, to a walk with Christ. That is entirely between an individual and Jesus Christ himself. The flaws and failures of the clergy, teachers, and the entire movement itself are on the people. Christ is the one that can be trusted, always, in any situation.

Persons hurt by the pain inflicted within church walls are often right to leave it to find the safety, integrity, and dignity they deserve. But departing from Christ entirely isn’t where it’s at. If anything, He’s the one completely capable of healing you.

Your walk through life doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor, even if your faith background has let you down. Humans are flawed little specks in the big scheme of things. Bet the ranch on Someone much, much bigger … and completely trustworthy.

Rest

I don’t often wax poetic about my faith very much, but it is a driving force of my life. So indulge me please, with this post. You will notice that I cap any mention of Christ and God and their pronouns as a sign of respect to the divinity that is so much higher than any of us can even fathom. I work in faith-based publishing and this is an element of our style manual, but I also do this in my personal life because I think it is deserved. Just a note about that.

This weekend, followers of Jesus Christ around the world are remembering the weekend that in our estimation, changed the world forever. The death and resurrection of Jesus, which many refer to as His passion, is the event that set a faith movement in motion. These pivotal days started Thursday night, wherein our tradition, Christ celebrated the last supper with His disciples, telling them of what was to come. It was the night Judas betrayed his Friend for a few pieces of silver—a mistake so devastating the man couldn’t live with himself and committed suicide.

On that Friday, Christ was interrogated, flogged, humiliated, and sentenced to death. There was no real crime for which He deserved to die, but He went to be crucified (the most brutal of death sentences the Romans could mete out to a criminal), nevertheless. Where just a few days before He entered a city to shouts of adoration and love, those same people turned away from Him in the moments when He needed them most.

By the evening of that Friday, He asked His Father for forgiveness for all who had done this to Him. For those who had come before, and those who were still to come—like us. And then He died.

Friends found an empty tomb nearby and cleaned and prepared His body per the Jewish custom of the day. Wrapped in clean new linens, His body was laid inside the tomb, a great stone rolled over the entrance, and Roman guards placed on duty to keep the dead man’s body inside, and others out. And then Sabbath was there.

The Sabbath is the 7th day of the week. The day in which the 4th commandment of the 10 Commandments asks us to keep as a day of rest of worship. It is observed so by observant Jews and seekers of the word of God, including Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh-day Baptists around the world. There are those of believe it and follow it, those with no affiliation with any formal congregation or denomination around the world.

So, between that Friday where Christ went to His rest, and the Sunday morning when He said, “enough of this,” and rose to life as He said He would, there was observed a day of rest—the Sabbath. It must have been a miserable one for any who loved Him. I can’t imagine that worship anywhere in Jerusalem felt restorative, celebratory, or even holy that Sabbath. Those that sent an innocent man to His death had guilt and blood on their hands, not to mention fear. And those who loved Him and believed Him were heartbroken. But they were all still called to rest on that Sabbath. To try and distance their hearts and minds from the sadness and cruelty of their reality, using only faith to sustain them through their pain. There was the promise in ancient prophecy that said the Savior would rise on the third day. Rest was their only course of action. And it was needed.

For early the next morning, Mary Magdalene the woman scorned by the pious needed to see if what He said would be true. Their rest is taken—for the living and the Man in the tomb, it was time to begin the story of redemption for the rest of time itself. And when she came to the tomb, the massive stone was rolled away. Inside were death linens—neatly folded. The Roman soldiers—powerless and useless now knew Whom they foolishly tried to keep inside a grave. An angel was there, telling Mary what she needed to know: Christ has risen. He was not there.

Today, in that quiet space between His death and His defeat of death, we rest and sit in reflection. The rest is good. It is needed. And it is ours. As it was since God commanded it, this space in time allows us to breathe, pause, remember. For in the morning, the greatest miracle of all time will occur.

So, we rejoice in this space. In this quiet waiting. Because in the morning the world will know forever: Death could not hold Him.

*Photo by Ann on Unsplash