HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF AGAINST MORAL FAILURE by Adriel Sanchez for Core Christianity
My wife and I have been talking about what happened with Carl Lentz. In November, Hillsong church fired him as their pastor, and the next day, he opened up on Instagram about committing adultery—something he attributed in part to pastoral burnout. Things continued to spiral when the woman with whom Lentz had been unfaithful came forward, sharing details about their relationship. Lentz had been in the spotlight for some time: He was well-known as Justin Bieber’s pastor and made appearances on Oprah and The View. Now, according to at least one source, he’s spending time away from the centerstage and focusing on his family.
These kinds of stories usually stir up a few different feelings in me. First, there’s anger. Not all anger is bad. On one occasion, Jesus made a whip of cords and drove out the money changers in the temple. When God’s worship is being corrupted, or Jesus’ sheep are being led astray or made to stumble because of the actions of spiritual leaders, it should produce a righteous indignation in us.
Second, I feel sorrow because of the pain sin causes for the sinner and those sinned against. Sexual sin in particular doesn’t just wound the family and the church (1 Cor. 5:6). It’s also uniquely self-destructive for the individual engaging in it (1 Cor. 6:18). While our sins are never beyond God’s forgiveness, their consequences can still have devastating effects on our lives, and the lives of the people we love.
Lastly, I feel trepidation as a pastor with a family. I know what the Bible teaches: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). There’s a sobering reminder here not only for ministers, but for all believers. Here are four things that come to mind when I think about how to guard ourselves against moral failure.
#1: Be Humble.
The first step to guarding yourself from moral failure is recognizing you aren’t impervious to it. The failures of others should never become instances where we say with the Pharisee, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like [insert Lentz or the latest well-known pastor to fall]” (Luke 18:11). If the sin of the people around us leads to pride in us, then we have fallen with them. Your brother or sister’s sin is a reminder of your own frailty—what could be true of you or me. Paul said, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).