A friend informed me that another pastor in our area was forced to resign after the church discovered that he was engaging in extramarital affairs. That is the second lead pastor within driving distance of One Church to be caught in affairs in the past two years. We should pray for them, their families and congregations.
As a pastor, I feel the weight of knowing that some people expect me to represent Jesus Christ (a horrifying and impossible task). Of course, any socially well adjusted pastor knows that he or she does not deserve to be placed on a pedestal, but congregations tend to do it anyway. Even worse, some pastors enjoy it.
If you have been disappointed by a spiritual leader:
1. Remember that Jesus is the Leader of the Church (Matthew 16v18).
Don’t “Drink the Kool-Aid” for any pastor. Jesus has earned your trust more than any pastor ever could. You can allow a pastor to lead and teach you, but keep Jesus the main thing.
2. Resist the temptation to become cynical.
Some pastors will betray your trust. Most won’t.
3. Forgive as you have been forgiven.
We have all been disappointed, and unfortunately, we have all disappointed others. It helps to know that forgiveness does not equal trust. Forgiveness can take place in an instant, but rebuilding trust takes time.
Whenever someone disappoints us, we can remember how it feels and choose to not cause that same disappointment in others.
A Sobering Warning
Adultery is a sin to which any person is susceptible, and none of us should assume that we are immune. As the well-known Proverb warns:
“18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud.” [Proverbs 16v18-19]
We also need to know that adultery causes more damage in the form of broken homes, disappointed friends and scarred children than anyone could calculate.
I am aware that people who have already had an affair will read this post, and my intention is not to add further pain to their lives. Anyone considering an affair, however, needs to know that cheating on your spouse will hurt your children deeply and for a long time.
Preventing An Affair
Prevention is option number one. At One Church, one of our values is, “No perfect people allowed.” What we mean by that is that we do not expect our congregation to be super Christians and pretend to have no problems.
Churches who pressure people to pretend are hypocrisy factories. While the Religious Right seems to be focused on preventing same sex marriages, hidden adultery continues to threaten all marriages. For example, I know more than one family in which a spouse acknowledged that he or she was gay after years feeling of pressured to hide it.
We are all dealing with brokenness, so there is no sense in pretending. It is surprisingly freeing to call each others’ bluffs and just admit it.
You have stuff to deal with, and so do I.
Once we admit the obvious, then we can confront our needs, anxiety and addictions. Counseling is readily available. If we don’t face them, they won’t magically go away. We will find ourselves habitually engaging in behaviors that temporarily relieve anxiety but are incredibly destructive to those we love. It’s cliche but true that “If you don’t deal with your baggage, it will deal with you.”
After the Fact
If you have engaged in an extramarital affair, there is good news and bad news.
First the bad news:
Asking God for forgiveness does not remove the pain and consequences for you or your family and friends. God specializes in creating order out of chaos, good from pain, but it will be a far longer and more painful ordering process than you imagined.
Refuse to play the victim game when the process of re-earning their trust takes far longer than you thought.
Now for the good news:
“6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” [Isaiah 55v6-7]
God offers mercy and forgiveness to the truly repentant, and He can grow you into the type of person who deals with your baggage and chooses to be faithful. There is always hope.
We pray that, in time, your family and friends will be able to forgive you and heal. They need to, but that is in God’s hands, and you cannot speed up that process.
Your continued faithfulness over the long haul will rebuild their trust.