Since the world heard the news of Ravi Zacharias’ indiscretions and that of Carl Lentz’s, it has been easy for us to throw stones, hasn’t it? Give it some thought. How often has it come up around the holiday table or in phone conversations or text chats? It has for me. Until I spoke to a young minister who cared deeply for Zacharias yet wasn’t shaken by the news I bore. He said he came to understand a simple truth long ago. We are all Ravi Zacharias. We are all Carl Lentz. Today it’s them. Tomorrow it will be him or me or you.
He told me that part of him thinks it makes us feel better to gab about the newest Christian leader who has fouled up big time. As if to say, “at least they are not after me.” I was shaken by the realization. Is that what we are feeling inside?I’m glad it’s not me. But, what if it were? What if it were your name splashed across websites and Christian gossip columns? You’d have a different opinion on the matter. What if the media or the church elders knew about your secret abortion, your homosexual thoughts, your med school cheat sheet or your roll in the hay with the choir director.
The truth is, friends, our attention on scandals such as these in the Christian church does nothing for us. In fact, it’s only making a case for our own guilt. We all know that “there is therefore now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus.” But we don’t believe it enough — especially now that we’ve seen news break about a late Christian apologist and a mega-church leader falling into sin. But, we are all on trial here, can’t you see that?
I don’t care how many sexual trysts he had or how many jewelry store owners he slept with, all these news articles and gossip do is magnify OUR sin. And when sin is magnified or “outed” in the lives of our fellow saints, Christian leaders no less, it has ONE effect. It encourages me to hide my sin all the more. Is that the culture of Christianity that we hope to perpetuate? Don’t confess sins one to another. Nah, that’s for the birds. Instead, just don’t get caught. For the record, the more we continue to spread the news of scandals like this, the more we deter people from actually wanting to follow Christ. Why? Well, if the Christian life is all about being scrutinized, why would I ever want to be a part of something like that? Especially if I’m unchurched and have a crapload of things that I’m struggling with like Justin Bieber did. If I come to church without getting those things fixed, it sounds a lot like they’d do to me what they do to the new kid in the cafeteria on his first day of school — roast me.
When we brandish each other’s mistakes in the public eye, we are no better than the Pharisees. That’s what they did. Going about all the city pulling out the law and performing a stick-measuring contest with other believers. Pastor Ravi Zacharias, why didn’t you fulfill the law? Pastor Carl Lentz, you fell way short, how shameful! If this is truly what the Christian walk is about, that sucks because no one can fulfill the law. No, not one.
Everyone has fallen short, am I right? So, why are we expecting everyone to be good enough? Why are we expecting everyone to be awesome and holy and special and perfect ALL THE TIME? Of course you’re thinking we’re supposed to hold preachers and teachers to higher standards, right? But, I ask, a simple question and I need a simple answer. What if we were them? We are ALL ministers but we love discussing these leaders’ mess-ups. But what would we do if our momentary indiscretions or our present-day slip-ups were put on front-street for all to see and hear? Are we not all humans, susceptible to the EXACT same temptations as Zacharias and Lentz? We should not magnify the sin. We should magnify the God who is still working on us and still saving us. Just as he is still working on their case and their behalf, he is still working on my case and on my behalf.
Saints, the folly of someone else should not be our joy. All that we’re doing is putting more and more guilt on ourselves. And, I can’t carry that weight. Our little mistakes and our little sins…the ones that we do behind closed doors, I’m not willing or ready to have them spoken about in public. Take a hard, long look at your own issues. What if the Christian stick-measuring committee were to find them and put them out into the world? Would you want your fellow Christians to relish your failure? I would not.
Here’s my advice, Christians. The law disqualifies you, your mother, your father, your brother and your sister. Embrace the fact that you are going to sin and you are going to make mistakes. Embrace the fact that your neighbor, your pastor and your parent will sin and make mistakes. Think before you attempt to spread gossip about someone else’s failing. Show mercy. Extend grace. The same grace you want from your Father in heaven.
I mean, if you only give them the amount of grace you gave Donald Trump, that would be a start.
Tiffani Knowles is the managing editor and founder of NEWD Magazine. Her hope is to become as "newd" as possible on a daily by embracing truth, authenticity and socio-spiritual awareness. She is bi-vocational as she is the owner of two businesses and a professor of communication at Barry University in Miami, Florida. She is also the co-author of HOLA America: Guts, Grit, Grind and Further Traits in the Successful American Immigrant and the online course series by the same name.