I just read a jarring headline that will be effecting my running routine for months to come. I am running low on podcasts and another pastor that I listen to regularly just resigned due to an affair.
It makes me both sad and angry . . . I guess kinda “”sangry”. I am not so much angry with Tullian or merely sad that this great preacher of grace is no longer going to be preaching to me every week.
Since I do not know him in any real way, I can only have a general anger at sin, brokenness and the corrupting effects of sin in a fallen world. Tullian was not able to keep his vows. And neither was his wife.
But rather than rail at him and hate on him, I am moved to love him and fear more for my own perseverance in this battle to continue to walk in integrity. How does one say “NO” to the passing pleasures of this world when heaven seems so far away? I would love to think that Tullian never said the prayers I pray. That he never put the roadblocks up or ever engaged in accountability relationships. I would love to take comfort in all these good things I have placed in my life in order to avoid the destructive effects of sexual sin on my family and church. But the reality is, I am sure that Tullian prayed more than once, “lead me not into temptation.”
There is an irony that this man who was so open about being a sinner was being honest. No one should be surprised that he is a sinner. I hope it is clear that an affair is a sin that disqualifies a man from the office of elder, and yet this was not his first sin, and will not be his last.
How do we process the fall of a leader? Let me conclude with four ways we should respond to the fall of a leader.
1. We should pray for them.
Many will certainly feel like Tullian let them down. But I would suggest to you that probably one of the greatest emotions Tullian is feeling is that he let himself down. He needs encouragement to repent and turn from sin and we should pray for that. He has a long road of healing in his family and he will bear the scars of this sin for the rest of his life. We should pray for Him.
2. We should pray for us.
We should regularly recognize that we are in a battle against sin and darkness in our own lives. And we need to keep coming back to the commander in prayer! God is able to keep us from stumbling and so we all should come to him as Jesus modeled, asking “lead us not into temptation.” This is not a guarantee that we will not fall, but coming to God regularly seeking his strength and protection against temptation will help to keep us in the fight.
3. We should walk in humility.
It can get so ugly when Christians turn against other Christians. We all recognize our own weakness and frailty. None of us are above Tullian in our ability to overcome sin. So as we pray for Him and pray for ourselves, we need to do so with an attitude of humility lest we ourselves fall. It should go without saying, but this humility requires that we avoid sinful gossip and speculation about the circumstances that we are far removed from.
4. We should lean heavily on God for mercy.
Lastly, the follower of Christ knows that we are dependent upon God to sustain us. Rather than allowing our hearts to settle into a dark and fearful place, we should lean more and more toward the light as the darkness creeps in. My trust and hope for my holiness is placed in God, but that doesn’t mean I sit back just saying “protect me.” Spending time in His Word . . . Talking with Him and reflecting on His presence each day . . . Connecting with other godly people in community . . . Contemplating the cross, the gravity of sin, the glory of redemption, and God’s great mercy all give me hope. They do not amount to a promise that I will never fall, but they give me the strength I need to keep walking in ministry as an undershepherd for Christ.