This past week I received some shattering news. A close friend of mine admitted to his wife that he'd been having an affair with another woman. They are a high profile ministry couple who are loved and respected by many churches around the world.
In the wake of the shock, the grief for his wife, family and church, the sense of deep loss, the disappointment that I wasn't able to see it and stop it, and the attempts to be a help, I find a mixed residue in my soul.
First, I want to be merciful to a friend who has fallen, putting down rocks of accusation or speculation that could be thrown at the vulnerable.
There has been sin, no doubt. Sin has its own consequences though, and we do not need to put our own spin on what that looks like. Jesus response to the woman caught in adultery in John 8 is a powerful model of grace and truth. We cannot be less gracious than Jesus was.
So I find that I'm left with my own soul audit. I am not immune.
I need to examine myself instead of pointing fingers.
The news has been a catalyst for some honest conversations between my wife and I, and also amongst our eldership team and church. One friend said to me,"I guess we are all one step away from something like this." I don't think we have to be only one step away. I think we can put ourselves maybe 20 steps away. And then we can seek out friendships in which we are honest enough to send off a smoke alarm before there's a fire.
I also find a fresh resolve.
Some friends have been honest enough to voice their fears."If their marriage and ministry didn't make it, what chance has my marriage and ministry got?" Well firstly, it is not over for them. We are trusting God for redemption. With moral failure in ministry, the gap between repentance, reconciliation and restoration is usually years, probably closer to a decade.But I've seen it happen up close, so I am a prisoner of hope.
So I have found myself saying, especially to younger couples in ministry, "Please do not allow satan to get more mileage out of this than God wants."
He would love this to cause many to give up the race, believing that marriage and ministry is an impossible mix . Let's not allow introspection to turn into insecurity, cynicism or despair.
"When satan tempts me to despair,
and tells me of my guilt within,
upward I look and see Him there,
Who made an end of all my sin"
There are many who have, and are still running that race with joy and endurance. We can take courage and learn from them.
So we do not simply look inward, we look upward to Jesus, Restorer and Sustainer of all things, who gives fuel to the runner, and mercy to the fallen.