You’ve probably heard the expression to “never meet your heroes” because you’ll find that they are just as flawed as everyone else.
This is never more clearly seen than in the wake of a prominent Christian leader or pastor who chooses to walk away from believing in Jesus, has a hidden sin come to light, or something similar.
In light of the popular Christian writer Josh Harris recently announcing his change of beliefs, many were unsure how to respond as he had left a big impact on their lives and their faith in Jesus.
This situation is unfortunately common, and it is important that we are ready to have a godly response.
Mercy, grace and kindness towards others
We live in a world where people are quick to judge and be critical of people and situations we know almost nothing about, and it’s no different for Christian leaders.
Even when the situation is fairly clear, we’re quick to say things and be more judgmental online than we would ever be in person (which is usually more than we should say or think anyway).
So, regarding Joshua Harris and any other well-known Christian person or pastor, we need to have even more grace towards them and their situation.
One of my favorite quotes from Chuck Smith is “blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy… and I need a lot of mercy.”
He is clearly referring to Jesus’ sermon on the mount and then reminding ourselves where we fall into the equation:
We need mercy and God wants us to also extend mercy to others.
And so, we need to keep the posture described by John Bradford in his famous quote:
“But for the grace of God, there go I.”John Bradford
Too many of us are quick to bring the torches and pitchforks, when that is the furthest thing from what Jesus would have us do.
Instead, let’s pray for the Christians in the public eye, the pastors and other leaders, who are going through extremely difficult times and know that if not for the grace of God, we would be in the same difficult position as them.
We are saved by, and follow, Jesus. Not other people
I think one of the reasons people can sometimes have such a massive knee-jerk reaction to a pastor or popularized Christian leader falling from the faith or into sin is because we have begun to put our beliefs, faith and trust in them and not Jesus.
This is especially common regarding pastors since they are teaching God’s Word week after week. But in cases like Joshua Harris, it’s easy to do the same since he rooted his messages on godly purity and lifestyle in the Bible.
And, although it’s very good to learn from others, after a while it’s tempting to put some of our faith and belief in the person teaching, rather than in Jesus, Who they are teaching about.
This problem is common, but also disastrous.
Although we are told to be thankful for our leaders, and even encouraged to imitate them so far as they imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), Jesus makes it clear that you need to have a personal connection to Him and His Spirit, and not merely one through another person.
We see this problem played out in the Bible through the life of King Joash.
He became king at a young age of 7, but it says that He held “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” (2 Chronicles 24:1-2).
But do you know what happened after Jehoiada the priest died?
He turned away from God and set up idols (2 Chronicles 24:17-18).
Joash’s faith in God wasn’t personally his, just one he adopted as long as the priest he grew up with was still around.
And I’ve seen the same thing happen to people I know, and maybe it’s happened to you.
Maybe it was a grandparent or parent.
Or maybe a famous preacher or pastor.
Possibly a Christian author or actor.
Or maybe even a close friend or person you have trusted to guide you spiritually.
When these types of people turn away from Jesus, renounce their faith, or even fall into sin, it can be easy to doubt or write off everything they’ve told us.
But your faith in Jesus and your relationship with Him cannot be reliant on someone else.
Those people may have led you to Jesus, but they are not your Savior.
As important of a role as people can play in our lives, we must not let our relationship to Jesus stay channeled through them. We must embrace Jesus separately and wholly as our own.
Jesus the same. Yesterday. Today. And Forever.
People make mistakes.
People will let us down.
But Jesus never will.
In light of any prominent Christian leader or pastor, it’s important to remember how Jesus is not like us flawed people.
He does not recant on His words.
He does not back down from Him promises.
He does not change His mind.
He is the same.
We can put our hope and trust fully upon Jesus and He will not let us down.
So, whenever a public or personal Christian leader lets you down…
Pray for them.
Encourage them. (especially if they are close to you)
Give grace to them.
And, in everything you do,
Everything you say,
And everywhere you go:
And stay close to Jesus.