"Let your light so shine before people, so that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:16)
The need for purity in the church
January 24, 2017
Some time or another, a scandal arises within the church, placing the entire institution under scrutiny.
Between late 2016 to present, the local Jamaican news media has been sensationally covering and unfolding one such scandal, involving various local church leaders. Whenever these stories are told, wherever in the world, the coverage seems to place into question the very legitimacy of the faith of Christ. At times when issues like these arise, Christians are unsure how to approach the situation, particularly because many critics take the opportunity to cite church defilement to de-legitimise the entire Christian faith. As Christians, however, we have to have a balanced approach.
Here are two key lessons we can learn from the sex-scandals that have arisen among church leaders.
LESSON ONE: AS AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, CHRISTIANS HAVE AN ADDED RESPONSIBILITY TO KEEP THEMSELVES PURE.
Purity is an expectation of everyone – both inside and outside the church. There is however an elevated expectation and need for the Church to be pure. If we are not pure, then those who are not followers of Jesus Christ, will not take the Message of Jesus Christ seriously, but will only dismiss those of us who proclaim it as being “hypocrites”. This will only set back the Mission which Jesus Christ has given to His followers, and that is, to “make disciples of all nations”, by preaching “repentance and remission of sins in His Name among all nations”. (See Matt.28:19; Lk.24:47).
The fact is that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”. (See Rom.3:23) The only way that this can be changed, is for Jesus to become our Lord and Saviour. As our Lord, He must rule our thoughts, feelings, motives, words and conduct all of the time, through our submission and obedience to Him in our daily lives, by following His Teachings. If any of Jesus Christ’s followers “backslide” in their hearts, and turn again to the power of sin to let it take control of their lives, then they need to be genuinely sorry for their backsliding, and turn back to Jesus Christ, confess their sins, and resume their new life of following after Jesus Christ.
Those who are leaders of Churches, especially, need to be careful on how they live as Jesus Christ followers, for they are to be an example both to the Churches which they are leading, and to the majority in the society, who are not followers of Jesus Christ. They are going to be judged more strictly than the other Church members, for they know more than the other Church members, and they are expected to lead not only by their teachings but also by their good example. (See James 3:1) It is not wise for a Church Leader, who has backslidden in his heart, to simply be removed from one location and be put in a new location. He needs to be restored to his right mind. He needs to be counselled with Christian Counselling. He needs to be prayed for. He needs to apologise publicly for what he has done. If this restoration is not done, the Church Leader is likely to repeat his offence in the new location. Without the proper Church Discipline, sin will also spread in the Church, for one man’s sin tends to encourage others to sin. It will also cause those who are not followers of Jesus Christ to think that every follower of Jesus Christ is like the Leader who has sinned, and they will not want to hear the Message of Jesus Christ.
LESSON TWO: GOD'S LAW OF PURE LIVING IS ALSO EXPECTED OF PERSONS OUTSIDE THE CHURCH.
There is a need for those who are not members of the Church to receive purification. You may think that you do not need Jesus Christ, since you behave yourself better than those who follow Jesus Christ. You may think that if those people in the Churches, who misbehave themselves, especially, their Church Leaders, might be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven, then, you, who have always behaved yourselves, should be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Listen carefully: if God were going to let anyone of us into His Kingdom, based on our behaviour, NONE of us would be good enough to enter His Kingdom. This is why you need Jesus Christ.
He took the blame or the fault of all people, good and bad, so that those who follow Him, may be blameless, faultless and have His Heavenly Father’s Perfect Righteousness GIVEN to them as a FREE GIFT. (See 2nd Cor.5:21) Therefore if you are depending on your own goodness to earn you a place in the Kingdom of Heaven, and you think that you do not need Jesus Christ to get you a place in His Father’s Kingdom through His death on the cross, His burial and resurrection from the dead, and through the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart to transform you into God’s Nature from one degree of holiness to a higher degree of holiness, you will not NOT make it. Understand this also: No person, Church member or Church Leader, who is pretending to follow Jesus Christ, but in their heart, they are really following Satan, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven either. (See Matt.7:21) Every follower of Jesus Christ, who is sincere, is going to “depart from evil”. (See 2nd Tim.2:19) So then, do not use what has happened recently in one of the Churches, and make this an excuse why you will never follow Jesus Christ.
GET YOURSELF RIGHT WITH GOD TODAY.
Those who have not yet started to follow Jesus Christ, please take the following steps to become a Christian:
(1) Believe with all of your heart in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour (See Jn.3:16-18);
(2) Repent of sins, that is, be sorry for all of your sins, change your mind from continuing in sins, and show this change of mind in a change of behaviour for the better (See Acts 3:18-19);
(3) Confess your faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God (See 1st Jn.4:15; compare Acts 8:37);
(4) Be buried with Jesus Christ in baptism, and be raised up with Him to walk in newness of life as a servant of righteousness (See Rom.6:3-4).
Those who have already started to follow Jesus Christ, but have backslidden in their hearts, please take the following steps:
(1) Repent of all of your sins (See Acts 8:22);
(2) Confess your sins (See 1st Jn.1:8-10);
(3) Pray that God may forgive you of your sins (See Acts 8:22,24).
In closing, I would like to make a charge of encouragement to those who have been victims of abuse. For the little ones who have suffered at the hands of these ministers, I pray that God’s healing will be on you, and all victims of abuse. I pray that you will see and know that the abuse that you have experienced is the work of Satan, and not of God. I pray that God will guide you to Himself and that you will find solace in God, and find true believers to support you toward positive growth. Never forget that you were made by God in His Own Image. Find your worth and healing in God.
To the perpetrators of the crimes, I pray that you will sincerely repent. You have been a stumbling block, not only to the abuse victims, but you have fed the fuel of scepticism of Christ. God is not a partner of your evil.
To all readers: I would like to remind us that this is all manifestation of spiritual warfare. The devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). We must all continually examine ourselves and be aware, as none of us is immune.