Before our troops are fully engaged in doing battle, they are trained to stay low, keep their heads down, and prepare for physical (& mental) combat. They learn to dig in, finding safety in the trenches (& in numbers), realizing that they are out of view of their enemies when they are in the foxholes. Fighter pilots are designed to avoid the radar and thereby keep their physical locations hidden from the enemy. Similarly, athletes in contact sports are trained for speed, agility and strength to out run, out maneuver, out wit and overpower their opponents. Whose strength do we depend on when we’re doing battle?
In a thunderstorm, we seek cover from the torrential downpour, knowing full well that the tallest object on the field or mountaintop is the most likely to attract the lightning bolt. Who then is your ally when you’re doing battle? Who is the strongest member of your team on your journey to claim the mountain? Who leads the charge and tests the path ahead for mine fields?
Self-sufficiency is an illusion. This week has been a week of departures that have left holes in many lives. A dear friend packed up all her earthly belongings, and with her husband embarked on a new chapter of their lives. In doing so, they had to say farewell to a lifetime of friends, family and most things familiar. As I write, they are still on their journey to claim the mountain that will be their new home in Florida. As independent as we are, we are still very interdependent on each other.
Leadership positions are an easy target for lightning bolts in the midst of a storm. This week our thriving church learned that our lead pastor and a female associate pastor, both married, had crossed boundaries in their personal feelings for each other, developing an intimate relationship that went unconfessed over time. The enemy loves it when we keep our sins secret because it is then that he has power over us.
What happened in our church was not a novel occurrence, nor is it the first time the enemy has sucker-punched a thriving church ministry. Close bonds often form between men and women in the workplace. None could be more publicly or personally humiliating as having that workplace center around a church ministry with details appearing in the news media and circulating on the internet. If you think it couldn’t happen at your church, think again.
How could this happen? What begins as friendship deepens as people become confidantes, sharing both the high points (mountaintops) and low points (foxholes) in their marriages and in their relationships with other people. They problem solve together, laugh together, cry together, work one-on-one and spend extended periods of time together.
Once a couple realizes that those invisible boundary lines have been crossed, it has already happened so subtly that the bonds are formed. They didn’t even realize the moment when the boundaries in their relationship became fuzzy. At that point, they are in the midst of the battle and trying to hide their feelings from the only one who can really help and rescue them from the destruction that relationship is certain to cause.
I am reminded of a true story once told me by a minister. I have never forgotten it.
A class of seminary students walked into an auditorium for a class lecture one day. Their professor asked the class to raise their hands if there was one of them who thought at some point in their married lives they might be tempted & fall in their faithfulness to their spouses & commit adultery.
Only one student raised his hand. The professor looked and him & said: you are dismissed from class today. Enjoy your day off. The rest of you stay. This lecture is for the rest of you who think you are too strong to fall.
What a marvelous lesson!
- We should never think we are too smart or too holy to outwit the schemes of the enemy. Resist the enemy and he will flee. (James 4:7)
- We should never put other people on a pedestal……never……regardless of how well known they are. The only “rock” is Jesus. (Psalms 18:2)
- We should always fix our eyes upon Jesus as our ultimate example of purity. (Hebrews 12:2)
- We should never think more highly of ourselves than we ought (even in the ministry) because we are all fighting a battle, covered by the grace of God. (Romans 12:3) There is no one above sin, (Proverbs 20:9) except for Jesus who was tested in all ways as we are in the human flesh, but did not sin. (Matthew 4:1) Of all the great religious leaders, evangelicals, ministers and authors who have shared powerful messages of salvation, inspiration and of God’s grace with the world, even they are not above sin.
- Extended one-on-one time between members of the opposite sex may give the enemy a foothold (& we all have weak moments). (Psalms 73:2) Our weak moments are exactly why we need a Savior in the first place….to strengthen us as well as to forgive us when we make mistakes.
- Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. It is wonderful to forgive those who have actually hurt you or caused you harm. Why would we turn our backs on someone just because they fell down on their journey to claim the mountain? (Matthew 6:15)
- Why would we use their fall as an excuse to follow them into a ditch? Why would we try to excuse our sin just because another sinned? If this happens, it is because we are choosing to focus on a person instead of looking up to Jesus as the ultimate example. We are commanded to have no other gods (little “g” or big “G”) except Jesus. He is the only VIP. (Exodus 20:3)
- What (or whom) can separate us from the love of Christ? Nothing and no one can separate us, yet we have free will to choose to accept that love. (Romans 8:35-39)
- Those God loves, He also chastens. (Hebrews 12:6) Simply stated, there is a price to be paid for sin. Jesus paid the ultimate price: death on the cross for each of us. He covered our sin debt by shedding his own blood on the cross and giving His life to redeem ours. (Romans 6:23)
Our church is actively “circling the wagons” much like those pioneers who headed westward did when they were doing battle on the frontier. We are interdependent (Romans 12:5) on Jesus as we face a new era in the ministry life of our church. We are engaged in a very public battle in a very loving and grace-oriented ministry of winning a lost and dying world to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:21) How we respond to the challenges ahead will be very critical and very public. Our congregation is choosing to fix our eyes upon Jesus as the “author” and perfecter of our faith as we move forward through this storm. (Hebrews 12:2)
As for me, I am reminded of God’s word: Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone. (John 8:7) Rest assured that person is certainly NOT me. There is a lesson for each of us here. Are you currently doing battle in your life? Who is leading the charge in that battle? Will you confess your secret mistakes and break those bonds or continue to allow the enemy to accuse and have power over you? (James 5:16) You do have a choice: freedom or bondage. Which will it be? (John 3:16)
Pam Baker, RN
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