Churches are normally shocked when news of ‘controversy’, especially if its discovered within their very own backyard finally surfaces and comes out to the open. As God’s church and its leaders are called to function as beacons of light and provide what the world outside is unable to offer; spiritual standards are high and requirements of morality much more stringent. As such, any unearthed ‘scandal’ within church circles becomes alarming and is often sensationalized, especially when a prominent church leader or a pastor is involved.
Though we may not have the ability to influence the outcome of how the ‘scandal’ will eventually unfold, how we choose to respond is important. This is because, it directly involves a precious child of God for whom He has shed His blood and continues to love dearly. We must always ensure that we remain on God’s redemptive side and never let the devil win although he has, for a time, knocked down one among us. How do we ensure that we are on God’s side and not the side of the enemy who is actually bent on getting us down too?
- Be slow to jump into conclusions.
Be careful of our initial response. There are two main ways that we could actually be jumping to wrong conclusions without knowing the actual truth. Firstly, by calling it a conspiracy. We think that somehow, someone has set the person up. We think that the person could never do wrong even when proof is presented. Secondly, by calling it a cover-up. We assume that surely there must be more to what has come out and someone is trying to hide something. While it is not wrong to be sceptical, it would be better if we reserved our comments until all the neccessary investigations are completed.
- Be slow to judge.
Even if the person is eventually found to be guilty, the Bible cautions us against judging others. We find this in Luke 6:37, ‘Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.’ We also read in James 4:12, ‘There is only one lawgiver and judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you, who are you, to judge your neighbour’. We need to be careful what we conclude about others within our own hearts because God will use the same measure that we have used for others (Luke 6:38).
- We ourselves may not be above reproach.
Although we may be conscious of our own shortcomings, it may be possible for us to think that we are somehow better than the person who has now been exposed. Again, the Bible cautions us in Romans 12:3, ‘ For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you, do not think of yourself more highly than you ought...’ We must always resist the temptation to become proud, which takes root when we inadvertently begin to consider ourselves as being better than those whose scandals have now become public.
- Be careful of gossiping.
Bible warns us about gossip. In Proverbs 17:9 we read, ‘He who covers an offence promotes love but he who repeats the matter separates close friends’. Gossiping eventually tarnishes a person’s reputation as those with ill intent will want to use it to exaggerate the matter. Gossip also opens room for nasty comments that maliciously deride the person. We need to be really careful as we will be accountable to God for every word we speak (Matthew 12:36), especially if it is spoken against God’s anointed. Moreover, if the person concerned is eventually exonerated, those who had gossiped would now have to bear the sin of being a false witness.
- Be careful not to generalize.
The temptation to generalize must be avoided at all costs. Just because someone has erred in their judgement, we must not generalize and conclude that everyone in authority is now wrong. If the matter involves a pastor, we should never think that henceforth no pastor should be trusted. When we harbour a suspicious view of those in authority, the devil may use it to undermine our submission by eroding our trust, which is crucial for any relationship. It will short-circuit the plans of God who intends to use those in authority to be a blessing to us.
By Rev Dennis Raj
Tamil Annual Conference