By William C. Sexton
Word has arrived with great sorrow, grief and shame that one of my brothers, a preacher of the gospel, has “committed adultery.” My head hangs low, my heart and mind is filled with heaviness; a group of people are shocked, a family is hurt deeply; a life is drifting on a sea of trouble – unsure at this moment as to whether survival is possible or not.
Adding to the heartache is the fact that this is not the only case of this sort that has come to me this year, or in recent months! A year ago I sat with this brother and others in a gathering of many people singing songs of praise to the Lord, teaching and admonishing one another of spiritual values, etc. This brother was evidently really concerned about saving souls. What happened? Satan, knowing of the strength of the sexual drive went to work, effectively blinding the eyes to the danger and, in time, the drive was activated in sin! Satan had succeeded! The “pleasure of sin” had ruled to ruin; a moment of gratification is followed with a lifetime of regret, shame, heartache, and suspicion!
In my thirty years as an active, concerned observer of Christian behavior I have developed an attitude that makes it exceedingly hard to be sympathetic toward this particular sin among preachers. Yet, I am not so “self-righteous” that I know that such could never happen to me; but, I truly believe that if such should, the same behavior toward me is appropriate and approved by God! Do not misunderstand me: I love this person, as I know God does, and forgiveness is obtained upon repentance and confession, as this person has done – as he states. However, I’m not in agreement with what I have seen happening in the last few years; a preacher is “caught,” he makes confession and continues to preach! Beloved, I challenge you to consider seriously the “fruits” of this behavior.
David – Forgiven But Consequences Follow
David was a man “after God’s own heart,” but he committed this evil, adultery (cf. 2 Sam. 12:1-14). When he owns up to it, he is told, “The Lord hath put away thy sin.” Yet, he is informed that consequences will follow him to his grave.
Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die (v. 14). Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me (v. 10).
When a preacher commits this sin, he can and will be forgiven when and if he really repents, confessing the same. Yet, consequences will follow him to his grave, and we need to be aware of that. In my judgment, when such is committed, confessed and things continue as “usual,” as nothing had happened, we do a great disservice to ourselves, God’s people, and the preacher involved!
When such is done, I suggest to you that it lends Satan a sword with which he will continue to slay us!
This lends to the idea – one can commit sin with but a “little” hand slap! Beloved, David got more than a little slap on the hand; he suffered the rest of his life, and God left it on record for all to read and fear!
I have said more than once: the best thing that can happen for a child when he gets into trouble, steals, lies, etc., is for him to get caught and disciplined! Otherwise, he’ll be reinforced in his “getting by with” the crime. Many are the passages which point to action being taken before all, “that all may fear” (cf. 1 Tim. 5:20; Tit. 1:13).
A Preacher Who Commits “Adultery” May Preach Again, But. . .
Paul was reluctant to take Mark with him on the second journey, because he had failed on the first – although later, after he had proved himself, evidently Paul could and did recommend him (Acts 15:36-41; Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. v. 24). 1 feel the same about a preacher, who has thus failed! In time, when he has had time and has actually proven that he will do this sin is no more” (cf. Eph. 4:28), then he should be give a “second chance.” To place him back in the pulpit immediately, however, in my judgment cannot but have a deteriorating effect on all concerned.
To take this attitude and commend this action is not to show a lack of love for the person involved; neither is it to become the punisher. Rather, I believe it is to act responsibly, desiring to recognize the damage that is done by such sinful action and to be governed by God, working to the end that the “occasion” to sin in this fashion will be less than it would be otherwise.
Knowing something of the development of character, I find it hard to see how a man can go out and have sexual intercourse with one other than his wife and then come and stand in the pulpit and proclaim the word without repenting and then go repeat that sin – such a person needs time and to see the need to be rehabilitated! One who can do that is unfit to be in the pulpit for a time – till he is able to prove that he has been reformed! I believe that to take another stand, one allowing more liberty is unwise, and harmful!
Brethren, I by no means want to be setting myself up as a guard, wise and self-righteous, knowing more than others or having more self-control than others. I am deeply concerned that in the past, members of the church – elders, and others concerned for the “love principle” in treatment of such behavior -have in fact encouraged repeated action by, in a sense, over-looking the gravity of the sin. It’s somewhat like ignoring a child’s behavior, and trying to help him without pressing the point, so he will learn not to so act!
Parents who slap the hand and then immediately try to “kiss the hurt away,” do their children a great harm – failing to see the healing and corrective power in the “hurt” process. I ask all to think seriously about this matter. With God’s help, as we seek it in prayer and study of his word, let us stand up for right! Let us extend our hand of forgiveness to all who so desire it, but let us not lend encouragement to such action – we’ll only see more if we do.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 21, pp. 654-655
November 5, 1987