I am heartsick this morning. Last week I heard about the death of a man with whom I went to seminary. I wouldn’t say that we were close friends, but we knew each other for over 30 years. I knew that he had been through quite an ordeal over the years with many ups and downs, but he always seemed to bounce back – through God’s grace and the help of brothers and sisters in Christ. As the news of how and why he died has been revealed, my heart has grown even heavier, and I am reminded that all flesh is weak. Whether you are a pastor, a seminary professor, or a lay-person, the flesh is so very weak. In our own strength, we are unable to resist the lure of the flesh. In our own strength, the voice of the demonic will overcome. In our own strength, we are destined to fall every time. But the Word of God tells us that “we are more than overcomers,” and sometimes we take that part of the verse to heart and forget the rest of it. Our ability to overcome comes through Jesus and only through Jesus.
I am about to go lead a Bible Study for a group of people going through some pretty heavy emotional and mental problems. My goal is to show them that they can find hope, help, and healing through spiritual renewal and reliance on God. I understand that there are people who scoff at the notion, but I am fully convinced that God can and does still bring healing today. Does that mean we don’t need psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and medications? Absolutely not! God has given mankind great knowledge and allowed us to make great advancements in the field, and if my friend who died had sought this help, he might still be alive today. His family could be rejoicing rather than mourning. His life could have been another great testimony of the power of God.
I say this not in condemnation. There has been too much of that. Too many “brothers” and “sisters” in Christ willing to “out” him because of his transgressions. And all I can say is, “Shame on you!” We often disguise our acts of backbiting and criticism in the form of prayer requests, but the result is the same. For some reason, too many of us feel empowered by the fact that we haven’t done that which our brother or sister has done, and the holier-than-thou mindset rears its ugly head. We forget that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” We forget that our sin nailed Jesus to the cross every bit as much as the sins of those we condemn. We forget that “but for the grace of God, there go I.”
So my heart breaks: for the one whose life has ended, for his family whose life has changed forever, for our seminary family struggling to understand and cope, and for the Church of the Living God. It’s no wonder the world wants no part of us. Why would you want to join an “organization” that will kick you when you’re down and reveal your dark secrets when you’re gone? What we need is to become the family of God that loves unconditionally and ministers God’s grace to those of us who are hurting. What we need is to become like Jesus, moved to tears over the hurts of others.
God, change our hearts. Transform our minds. And renew a right spirit in us today.