Sadly, a minister where I live has been arrested for alleged sexual impurity with children. The purpose of this study is to set forth thoughts for Christians to contemplate as a starting point regarding sexual failure within a congregation. It is not intended to be an exhaustive study but a source for reflection, meditation, and cautious discussions.

My practice as a pastor has always been when significant current events transpire to address them from Scripture. I have done this with hurricanes, bridge collapses, the space shuttle disaster, tsunamis, tornadoes, 9/11, the Clinton/Walenski event, and unexpected personal tragedies. With that said, a local children’s minister where I live has recently been arrested for alleged child molestation, to which he has confessed.[1] Thus it is proper to take the same approach as I have taken in the past and address this from a Biblical perspective.

Caveats: 1) I am not closely associated with the people or events, so my perspective is from the outside looking in and, admittedly… I do not know or have all the facts. 2) Those most closely effected need to be shown grace, mercy, and compassion as they are operating in emotional shock right now. 3) Even though the individual has confessed, still there is presumed innocence until guilt is proven. 4) It is impossible to address every nuance of this event, my hope is to suggest a Biblical point of reference to start discussions for Christians.

If the Christian faith does not hold in the most difficult of times, it is worthless. If God’s Word does not give direction to follow for the most complex situations, it too is worthless. If God has not given Christians clear directions to follow in all things, then Christianity is meaningless. With those things being my basis, now I suggest a few passages and thoughts for Christians to begin processing this most angering and confusing of tragedies.

A Word Of Caution

Consider two passages from Scripture…

“Let him who stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18)

It is easy to jump on the band wagon of condemnation when things like this happen. But we had better be careful. If we call for justice to rain down from God, we may be the first to receive it. The stark truth is, until YOU are in a situation you do not know what you would do or how you would react. So as this study is considered, keep humbly in mind that but for the grace of God we too can fail, miserably. Events such as these remind us of our need for God’s mercy, grace, and compassion. It also might be worth remembering and contemplating the Golden Rule when Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

Last, consider that the one writing this and the one reading it, has been forgiven of a much greater sin… that of causing Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, to be crucified. And yet God has forgiven us. It is because we have been forgiven that we are to, and can, forgive.[2]

The Need For Compassion (Romans 12:15-b):

For a time, those most traumatized by this event need to be shown mercy and grace. The last thing they need to hear are things like… “There, there. It’s going to be okay,” or “I know you can’t see it now but God must have a reason,” or “We know God causes all things to work together for our good.” While those things may be true, tears and comfort are needed more than truth at times. The time will come for truth to be spoken, but only at the right time.

Those who need compassion are: The children and families who were violated. Second, the perpetrator’s wife, children, and family. Third, the congregation that is struggling. Last, the perpetrator himself. This event has left deep and long-lasting scars that will take years to heal. Then the worst part of this event is that Christ, Christianity, and The Church have been given a huge black eye. There is now yet another reason for unbelievers to disparage the Gospel.[3]

The Need For Justice

The alleged perpetrator must pay the penalty for his crime. He kicked the Bride of Christ (The Church) in the stomach and it is made worse by being a minister.[4] The emotional scars inflicted on children and families are deep. What he has done to his wife and children will not be forgotten by them in this life. Christ would have each of these individuals… as Christians… to forgive (Keeping in mind forgiveness is a process, not an event). But just because there is forgiveness does NOT mean consequences are taken away.

When David committed adultery and murder, he was forgiven. However, the consequences of his actions followed him the rest of his life. The Prophet Nathan confronted King David and this is found written in 2 Samuel 12:7-14… (Don’t skip reading this passage)

(Nathan said) Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'” 13  David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.”

David was forgiven {V 13-B}, but God’s forgiveness did not negate God’s discipline. Because David gave many a reason to scorn the Lord, the consequences would be: 1) He would be at war the rest of his life {V 10}, 2) Members of his family would rebel against him {V 11-A, Absalom}, 3) His wives would commit adultery openly {V 11-B}, and 4) The child born to him and Bathsheba would die {V 14}. Actually, these four things prove God loved David.[5]

In the New Testament another noteworthy event is recorded regarding the punishment of sexual nature. It is found in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5…

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Among several applications, a few are pertinent to the subject at hand. There was gross sexual immorality in the church by a believer. Since the church would not act regarding discipline for the purpose of restoration (Galatians 6:1-2), this person was given over to Satan for “destruction of the flesh” so that he would not be separated from God forever. This could refer to many different things not the least of which could be the sin unto death.[6]

The individual who has wounded many by his sin should be forgiven. However, forgiveness does not negate the consequences of his sin in this life. The judicial process should and must continue to completion by the state determining his punishment and length thereof. Already his wife has filed for divorce according to news reports. And… the church should remove him from the membership WHILE continuing to minister and restore him.[7]

Assessing Genuine Repentance

It is not enough for one who has sinned to ask for forgiveness, and it be granted. The sorrow of any individual is a tricky thing to discern. People can have tears of sorrow for several reasons including: Getting caught, embarrassment, anger, fear, the desire to manipulate others (“Crocodile Tears”), or genuine repentance for their actions. Fortunately God has given Christians direction in His Word to make an accurate evaluation of a person’s sorrow, including our own. Consider 2 Corinthians 7:9-11…

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. 11 For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.

Without going into expansive detail, consider the differences between godly and worldly grief. It is worth noting in verse 11 godly grief comes from within the person. It cannot be imposed or forced on any individual.

Godly sorrow brings about repentance (Vs 10a). Godly sorrow does not result in regret (Vs 10b). Godly sorrow produces earnestness (Vs 11a) which is a sincere heart… honest actions… without any deception. Godly sorrow produces “eagerness…” (Vs 11b) which is a strong desire to clear up whatever is wrong. Godly sorrow produces “indignation…” (Vs 11c) which is anger about the sin committed. Godly sorrow produces “alarm” (Vs 11d) which is a recognition of danger because of the presence of sin in the person’s life. Godly sorrow produces “concern” (Vs 11e) for the other person or people effected by sin. Godly sorrow produces “readiness” (Vs 11f) which means the person is willing to accept whatever the consequences are of their sin and do whatever it takes to make things right… regardless of what it is.  A good illustration of this is found in Luke 19:8-10.

To put this in a more succinct form, the way to know if repentance is genuine or false is the fruit it produces as found in the text above. Godly grief produces:

1) Repentance… Turning away from sin to God,

2) Earnestness… Driven to make things right,

3) Eagerness to clear yourself… Willingness to do whatever it takes to make things right,

4) Indignation… The person is appalled that their sin has wounded others,

5) Alarm… Distress over the event and its consequences,

6) Longing… Passion to not let the matter go until correction is made,

7) Concern… A genuine care for those wounded by sin,

8) Readiness to see justice done… The person will submit themselves to whatever necessary to correct the situation without hesitation,

9) Each of these come from within the person, not imposed from others first.

If a person does not have all these… in an increasing manner[8]… they do not have godly but worldly grief. Worldly grief brings death. Godly grief brings life, peace and righteousness (Hebrews 12:4-11). Be sure that it is possible for a Christian to fail in a major way. David did, as did Peter, along with the person in 1 Corinthians 5.

For now, these thoughts are enough for Christians to begin asking God to reveal His truth. There are sufficient Biblical precedents presented here for Christians to engage one another in prayerful and grace filled discussions. My prayer is that Christians lead the way of conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. (Phil 1:27, NIV)

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… (Rom 12:18-19, ESV)