Oh how the mighty have fallen! David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel 1:17-27 is a deep cry of pain for two people that he loved. One was a wicked king named Saul, the other was a friend that he loved as his own soul, Jonathan. (1 Samuel 18:3)
My first experience with this collection of verses came when a pastor from our church had fallen into sin and had to resign. The preacher who preached this passage to the congregation was a long time friend of the church and I knew that he felt our pain.
David loved Saul. This is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true. David believed that God chose Saul to be king (which he did) and because of God’s choice, Saul was worthy of David’s love.
David loved Jonathan. This is easier to swallow because unlike Saul, Jonathan demonstrated his love for David more than a few times and David considered him a true friend.
That preacher came the week after the fall, to bring us a message from the Word of God that would help us deal with the fallen pastor’s sin and disappearance. He focused on this passage and highlighted that Saul had not kept his shield anointed (v21).
He expounded that a minister or anyone, who does not keep himself from sin, can and will fall into sin.
In Saul’s case, his sins were great: he consulted demons, performed an illegal sacrifice and he disobeyed God as often as possible.
Being young and new to the faith, this was comforting because it explained what happened and what could happen. We weren’t given the details, just that it was a sin that could not be tolerated.
As I have matured and thought about that scriptural connection (Saul is representative of the pastor who sinned and the reasons for his falling) I learned that it doesn’t fit the situation.
First, the pastor is not a king. Saul had power and misused his power to get his own way. Pastor’s are not kings, though some think they are and sometimes, we make them kings.
The Holy Spirit, gives gifts to whom He wills, and if He’s given power to a pastor, it is to shepherd the flock with gentleness and care.
Second, the pastor is not an enemy of God. Even though Saul was God’s choice, God chose Him as an example to the people that when you reject God as king, you will get a tyrant that will make your lives miserable.
Saul was chosen because he was ungodly.
Lastly, the pastor is filled with the Holy Spirit. God has poured out His Holy Spirit on all who believe in Jesus Christ. That Spirit is at work to transform the life of the believer. Saul did not have the Holy Spirit (okay, maybe once).
So, why do pastors fall?
For the same reasons above, they become prideful in their position, they turn from obeying God to the lust for the world’s satanic system and ignore the Holy Spirit’s yells to turn from their sin.
When this happens to a pastor or spiritual leader or someone in your life that you looked up to, it can create a huge hole in your heart and sometimes, even in your faith.
In the recent scandal surrounding Ravi Zacharias, it has been proven that Ravi Zacharias was living sinfully, at least in the last 10 years of his 74 years (though it could be more). My immediate desire was to think about the why of his sinfulness.
If you’ve heard him speak before, you would have immediately recognized that he had a way of understanding and communicating scripture that was impressive. You didn’t always know why, or couldn’t recommunicate what he had just said, but felt that he was able to combat the thoughts of the so-called, intellectuals. I didn’t know him on any other level than listening to him on the radio or watching clips on YouTube.
I didn’t know his private struggles or relationships with friends, family or church. I just knew that his thinking was at a higher level and I wanted to get to that kind of thinking… one day!
Reading about Ravi and the scandal and the sinfulness really turned me to Christ, wondering, if this mighty man of God can’t live a life free from sin, how am I supposed to.
When Christian leaders fall from grace they can create doubt in our faith.
God’s Word has answers for me and you.
“But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die. (NIV)
This verse fit the situation. A spiritual leader or teacher is a righteous person. They are proclaiming the right truth of Jesus Christ and central to that truth is living without sin. In this verse, the righteous person turns from their righteousness and sins, but also the type of sin is equal to what a detestable, wicked person would do.
This verse isn’t talking about the saint who sins, then repents, then sins, then repents. It is talking to a person of position who teaches others about doing the right things, but himself, is doing the wrong things. The Word is calling that person, a hypocrite.
Does this fit Ravi Zacharias?
I think it does. It has been shown that he was sinful and pursuing sinful behaviors in a consistent way. According to witnesses, he used his power and position, to cause himself and others to sin. By his sinful actions, he has brought tremendous pain to those who love him and trusted in him for truthfulness. His actions have brought doubt into so many peoples hearts and he will not be remembered solely as a man who powerfully proclaimed the word of God, but as the man who was stained by sin’s ugly mark.
I do not have doubts that Jesus is God. Even if every one is discovered to be a liar, God is true. My salvation isn’t in Ravi Zacharias or any other person. My salvation is in Christ alone.
On May 19, 2020, Ravi has already come before his Savior and has given an account for his actions. He is living in the truth of an eternal hope and future.
We, on the other hand, are still among the living and how we react and respond to leaders who fall, will help us to be either comforted or disheartened.
How to deal with a fallen saint?
First, it’s okay to mourn. When someone you love has been overtaken by their sinful desires, it is okay to shed tears over that loss. The pain of betrayal is real and acknowledging it before God and talking it out with Him will heal your soul, despite the pain.
Second, examine yourself. We are to quick to point fingers at leadership and their failings without first looking at ourselves. If we struggle with sin, they struggle with sin. If I look and see that their is sin in my life, then how can I look at the sin in someone else’s life without mercy and grace.
Third, fight against doubt. The Word of God is true, even if everyone else is a liar. God’s Word stands alone and is true. When you feel doubt come into your mind, use Bible verses to get rid of the doubt.
Finally, work to put this behind you. It is tough to say, “forget about that person,” but God tells us that his righteous acts will be remembered no more. It’s okay to stop listening to Ravi Zacharias. It’s okay to stop reading about his sinful behavior. Put this behind you and move forward in God’s plans and purpose for YOUR future.
In the end, each of us will stand before God and be held accountable for our lives.
Will you be prepared?
If you don’t believe that Jesus Christ is King and Savior over your life, then you are not prepared. Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth as a man to live a sin-free life. He willingly gave his life to be killed for our sins and by doing so, dealt with the one thing that kept us from a close relationship with God: sin.
Now that sin is out of the way, we can approach God, but only through His Son, Jesus. To get full access to God, you must believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that His life and sacrifice on the cross was accepted by God and that He rose from the dead (Romans 10:9). If you believe in your heart these things, then the Bible says you are SAVED. Now, there is a life time of learning about God through a personal relationship with His Word and with His Spirit.