After receiving their call, many men go on to be spiritual giants or at least religious giants who carry a lot of influence with the lesser congregational leaders. Many men are seen as very great men of God, men who walk and talk with God personally, and then preach his word with authority. Abraham was such a man as he talked with God often getting to the point where he could ask God to stay his judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah if enough righteous people were found within their walls.
But like all great men, Abraham was still human and despite his obedience, his righteousness and personal call, he still made mistakes. Genesis 12 highlights one of those errors in judgment:
11 It came about when he [j]came near to Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “See now, I know that you are a [k]beautiful woman; 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that [l]I may live on account of you.”
The first lesson we need to draw from this situation is that even great men of God will have errors in judgment and make decisions that will leave us wondering how they could do that. All people are human and we must be careful to not deify humans even though their spiritual status is quite high. Billy Graham made a huge mistake with Truman early in his ministry and it cost him. We need to remember that men of God are not immune from temptation, fear, moments of weakness or even naive thinking.
The second lesson we need to draw from this situation is how God responded to Abraham’s error. We read:
17 But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 Then Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, [o]here is your wife, take her and go.” 20 Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him; and they [p]escorted him away, with his wife and all that belonged to him.
God did not judge Abraham, did not take away his promise, did not ask him to step down from his position nor even removed his employment. He did fix the situation for Abraham and made the punishment fit the crime committed. Too often in today’s world people want to see the maximum penalty issued for the slightest of errors. No longer do we forgive and make the punishment fit the crime but use any excuse to humiliate, ruin, or remove the offender.
We stand in judgment of these type of men and demand perfection from those who cannot give perfection. We lose sight of the fact that these men are fallible beings and are often overwhelmed with temptation and other evil influences and not provided enough of the good influence that they will lose the fight to stay pure and commit sin.
Standing in judgment of them and taking away their employment or standing is not the solution to their problem, unless their sin was really grievous. Jesus told us in the example of the woman caught in adultery, ‘that he who is without sin cast the first stone’ and those words do not just apply to women caught in adultery but to all situations where humans must adjudicate other believer’s failings.
We must realize that we are not perfect and that we have some sin somewhere that disqualifies us from standing in judgment of those church leaders who truly fail. We cannot condemn them for we are probably worse than they are and I am sure our friends and family will gladly point out evidence in support of that comment. What we need to do is look for where we can apply godly justice which will bring about redemption and restoration.
God’s call on the fallen man’s life is not removed because of their sin unless God removes it. Too often when men of God fall, the Christian community relies upon image or trying to look spiritual to guide their discipline and those are not tools God said to use when administering spiritual justice.They want to look holy but rarely do they succeed when handling these matters.
As we see by Genesis 12, God punished Abraham , we can conclude, by removing him from his oasis from the famine, and that was it. God did not go overboard with his reproving and let the anger and dismay of the Pharaoh do their work on Abraham’s mind. We may say that that punishment is not enough but in God’s eyes it was and God does not worry about looking spiritual or about his image.
Too often Christians allow their feelings of betrayal to influence their administering of church discipline instead of letting the HS guide them to the right action to take. People are not satisfied with the correct form of justice because it does not feed their need to get ‘revenge’ or ‘even’ with the offender but justice does not exist to appease getting even or revenge. It exists to be fair, to keep order in society, to bring the offender back to good standing with God and the church, or community.
One of the things I have disliked about the American legal system is its ability to find the right punishment that allows for the offender to continue offending because he or she has no other options available to them. Punishment is not an activity to see how much disciplinary duties we can place upon those who break the law but somehow that notion has gotten lost over the decades.
When we are placed in positions where we must discipline others, we should keep at the forefront of our minds the simple verse: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Lk. 6:31)
If you do not want a certain punishment done to you, if you do not want to endure an unfair trial or an unjust sentence and so on, then do not do that to others. Fight for fairness, wisdom, justice for them so that God’s name will not be mocked and the church ridiculed. When Christians act, it is not just the Christians involved who pay the price for any unbiblical action taken by any congregational group.
The unbeliever sees the injustice, the unfairness, the harshness committed by the believer and make judgments about Christ, salvation and eternity based upon what they have witnessed.
God is not unjust nor unfair thus the church member should not be either. They are already saved, we hope, thus they have nothing to prove to God by being overly harsh towards their fellow believer who could not continue resisting evil’s influence. Al they prove to both God and man is that they do not know what fairness and justice are and that they will treat their own far harsher than they should.
Men will fail but it is not the duty of the church to stand in judgment or condemnation and ruin the fallen person. It is the duty of the church to be just, fair, honest, compassionate, etc., as they handle their judicial duties. The church has to set the example for the unbelieving world not follow the sinful one set by the unbelieving world through its corrupted legal systems.
We need to work to restore people not drive them away because they were not perfect throughout their lives.