Some days I feel like I need to take a shower after watching the news. Too often the headlines are just plain sordid and disgusting.
Last week was one of those times. When a grand jury report revealed the unspeakable acts of sexual abuse by hundreds of priests against at least a thousand children. It has rocked the Church, and along with it, the trust of many in leadership.
And sadly, that comes on the heels of sexual allegations that have brought down one of evangelicals’ most influential leaders and rocked the flagship church and movement he founded.
We have friends who are some of those deeply wounded and confused by that spiritual earthquake. I just heard from another one this morning. In all their disbelief and shock, there is just a deep and pervasive sense of grieving.
Beyond these nationally reported incidents, many of us have been affected – even scarred – by the fall of a looked-to Christian in our personal world. For some, it became a reason to abandon church, and sometimes Jesus with it. For others, it’s become an excuse for compromise and mediocrity.
And for those who look for rocks to throw at the Christian faith, betrayals like these provide fresh ammunition.
But in the rubble of a spiritual fall, it’s easy to miss both the warning and the hope beyond the crash.
The warning is a sobering one. Each one of us who carries the name of Jesus on our life – Christ-one – is either a reason for people to choose Jesus or reject Jesus. We are being watched because they can’t see Jesus, but they can see us.
Years ago, my wife and I were on Nantucket where we saw a “lightship” named after the island. It was literally a boat with a lighthouse light that anchored in the busy, treacherous channel offshore where many ships had gone down. At the time, I thought: “If that ship ever started drifting, it could pull a lot of ships off course. And even onto the rocks.”
That’s true of every follower of Christ. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” People are watching that light. If we selfishly or carelessly start drifting, they drift with us. Some, right onto the rocks.
But, in a strange way, the fall of a Jesus-follower or leader can point us back to the unshakeable hope our faith rests upon. A hope that belies any excuse an unbeliever may find for rejecting Jesus. Or a believer may use to justify their defection.
Because our faith has never been about Christianity the religion. Or Christians, the believers.
No, it’s been, from Day One, all about JESUS!
His repeated invitation to people was simply, “Follow Me.” Not follow My religion. Not follow My followers. Or My leaders. Just, “Follow Me.”
Many reprehensible things have been done in the name of Christianity. But that wasn’t Jesus. Too many Christians have professed His name and then failed to walk the talk. But that wasn’t Jesus.
Beyond the fog of fallen followers, there stands a cross on a hill. Long before there were any churches, any pastors or priests, any creeds, even anyone called Christian – there was a Man hanging on a cross, loving us enough to die for us. And “this is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins" (1 John 4:10).
Long before there was a religion called “Christianity,” there was Christ blowing the doors off His tomb, conquering death forever. And promising, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
It is this Jesus who stands when His leaders, when His followers fall. The failure of a Christian must refocus us on the faithfulness of Christ.
He will never fail us. He will never disappoint us. He will never break a promise He has made. He is the One of whom the Bible says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19). The Anchor the storm cannot move.
When trust is broken, there is one safe place to go. Jesus “The same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).