The Expository Files


Grieving Without Leaving

{Hand a copy of this article to people you know who have "left the church" because of their disgust or disappointment over a member who failed.}

Every group is composed of people who may or may not live up to the principles or ethics generally held by the group. The failure of a member does not mean the principles of the group are invalid. It only means the guilty member has failed to live by the principles.

If a plumber commits murder, we should not suspect all plumbers. Nor should we think that the plumbing business or industry no longer has any credibility. {When the water runs out all over your kitchen floor, you'll probably still call a plumber.}

If a government official is caught in scandal, we are not justified in thinking that government no longer has any place in society. Or that all this man's associates are wicked. We understand, one person failed.

If an educator turns out to be perverse and evil, there is no reason to think the guilty teacher represented all educators in the crime. If a mother kills her children, it is not reasonable to think any less of motherhood. When one astronaut acts out irrational fury, that doesn't reflect on all others who have that profession.

If a local preacher or elder commits adultery or otherwise brings disgrace on himself, can we conclude that all the principles taught and practiced by that group suddenly have no value? The misbehavior of one member of a group does not mean the ethics/principles of the group are worthless.

We should learn to appropriately grieve over the sin of individuals, without leaving what is good and right. With every failure in character we witness or hear about, our response really shows our character, our objectivity and our commitment.

Our commitment is to God! In fulfilling that commitment, we are brought into relationship with people united with us in that commitment, but they are creatures of choice, fallible and sometimes hypocritical. That sad reality doesn't argue against the principle of the group.

"And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified," (Acts 20:32). {See also, Acts 26:18; Rom. 6:17; 14:12; 1 Thess. 1:9 & 4:1.}

Additional Note - If you think "conservative" or "non-institutional" congregations have some common allegiance or unity that yields corruption, you are simply wrong, in my judgment. When preachers or elders fail, they didn't fail because they were once committed to New Testament authority. They failed because they abandoned that commitment in their personal lives. And if you think "we" are the only "groups" suffering with this, you are reasoning from the sin of a few against the righteousness of many. Denominational churches, institutional churches and every religious group witnesses cases of hypocrisy, fraud, exits from the closet, etc. It always shows the failure of the individual. Our challenge is to learn godly grief, help the sinner in every proper way, and not just leave. The later behavior is like the proverbial, "pick up my marbles and go home." That's typical of children, but too often of adults.

By Warren E. Berkley
The Front Page
From Expository Files 14.3; March 2007