God’s Grace Extends to Fallen Leaders
When the ruckus that led to Jerry Falwell Jr.’s leave of absence from Liberty University erupted a month ago, I dismissed it as a tempest in a teapot.
I mean, imagine the outrage that would accompany a story about a Christian university president photographed with his arm around a young woman—not his wife!—at a party. With their zippers down and midsections exposed. Horrors!
I still think the photo in question was less salacious than many claimed. But as everyone by now knows, compared to the revelations that followed about Mrs. Falwell’s extra-marital affair and purported blackmail attempts by her lover, it was a tempest in a teapot.
Restoring in Meekness
Before we gang up on Falwell and banish him to the land time forgot, we need to remember the words of Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if a man is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, watching yourselves, lest you also be tempted” (MEV, emphasis added).
In other words, we shouldn’t join the worldly parade to laugh, mock, and titter over those who stumble, particularly people in positions of national visibility.
I still remember the time more than 15 years ago I made a remark about a well-known leader whose peccadilloes became the source of considerable controversy.
In talking with a friend about it, I asked, “How could he have been so stupid?”
Three days later, in a quiet moment, I sensed the Holy Spirit saying, “Who are you calling stupid?”
He then proceeded to bring to mind a series of rather dumb mistakes I had made in the years prior; the only difference was few people had seen my missteps.
Chastened, I asked God’s forgiveness for my remark.
What will happen to Falwell is a story that will only be known as the ramifications unfold in years to come.
However, the fact that his personal failings and actions as president of a major university are the source of national headlines demonstrates the kind of pressure that goes with his job. The kind few critics could handle.
We also must remember the story of David, the legendary king of Israel. Were he alive today, imagine the headlines that would hurtle around cyberspace and supermarket tabloids:
- King and Mistress in Love Nest!
- David Guilty of Ordering Lover’s Husband’s Murder
- ‘Love Child’ From Illicit Affair Dies
- Son from King’s Affair Israel’s New Leader
I could go on, but you get the point. Throughout time, human leaders display human flaws—even those who are supposed to set a better example.
We should remember too that God called David a man after His own heart. David, the man who got away with murder and never spent a day in jail.
The fact that God forgave him shows that we don’t really understand the depth of God’s forgiveness. His grace is inestimable.
That’s why my reaction to the shocking news about Falwell’s resignation was one of sadness over another Christian leader’s marriage troubles becoming so public. I hope he and his wife can repair the damage without breaking apart.
If there were ever a time we should be praying for God’s wisdom, restoration, and guidance in the Falwells’ lives (and our own), it’s now.