Friday, July 21, 2017

How to React When a Leader Falls

When a leader falls...not if. 

In our society, we're a little short on heroes...

Merriam Webster's online dictionary defines "hero" as:

"a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability" (1)
I hope you caught those first few words..."mythological...legendary." The implication is that we admire the person for their accomplishments, a legend of even more greatness begins to develop, and our expectations rise. 
Failure in a hero is not one of the options for which we prepare ourselves. Mankind's propensity for sin isn't factored into the equation at all.
Here's a bit of truth we need to remember: The marketplace of public opinion is a difficult place to reside. 
Even favorable coverage can be hard to survive when you're constantly under the microscope of media attention. It can be almost impossible to go to the grocery store or out to eat without being recognized, noticed, and approached. 
Children cringe and spouses struggle because of the constant adoration toward their family member. Normal interactions are strained because the "hero" has to be on his/her best behavior all the time. Everyone in the family does, too. If not, a bystander will post a photo or a video on social media. If it's damaging, it will spread like wildfire. I would think the desire to "hide" is pretty common. 
I'm not condoning misconduct or moral failure. I'm calling it sin, and sin, first and foremost, is an issue between God and the sinner. 
Our insatiable hunger to expose the deepest, darkest secrets drives the 24-hour news coverage. We delight in moral failure as "news" rather than as cause for great sorrow. The one who has sinned barely has time to repent before the world knows the one thing they wished they hadn't done.
People fail. That's a fact. Moral failure began with Adam and Eve and it continues today. I'm not in favor of failure, but I'm not surprised by it, either.
The example that comes to mind is the Apostle Peter. He was in the inner circle with Jesus, and in the spotlight all the time. He helped hand out miracle bread to the multitudes. I imagine people in Capernaum had mixed opinions about him because he "left everything to follow Jesus," but he definitely had his admirers. 
Jesus warned him that an opportunity to fail was imminent. Peter failed to heed the warning, just like most of us would do. He didn't believe he would do the one thing Jesus warned him against, so he didn't protect himself. Then, he failed and everyone knew.
His shame took him right back to the boat from which Jesus had called him, and he stayed there until Jesus called him again. 
Let's take a moment to see how Peter's denial began:
"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat..." Luke 22:31 nasb
Here's the Leanna paraphrase:
God: Here you are again, you old devil. What are you up to this time?Satan: Have you noticed Simon Peter? He looks good, but he couldn't withstand a hard wind. I can make him fall. You just watch and see.God: He's one of my favorites. Leave him alone.Satan: Let me have a go at him. I'll show you a rock. I'm gonna rock his world.God: He does have a problem with pride, and it needs to go. You have my permission to test him, but don't kill him. I have plans for Peter.Satan: Stand by and watch.
Satan demanded an opportunity to try to make Peter fall.Pride made him vulnerable. Jesus warned him of it. Peter (full of pride) disregarded the warning. When the temptation came, he fell into it completely.
That's how it happens. The temptations that come our way are designed specifically for us. The enemy of our soul watches for an opportunity and takes it. The temptation is designed and offered. We have the chance to resist or embrace it. 
Only the most cautious resist, and it's harder than we may think.
One missed quiet time can put us in a vulnerable spiritual position. One tiny compromise can lead to another...and another...until we've done the unthinkable.
What's so sad about Simon Peter's failure is that he not only returned to the boat, he took his buddies along with him. Only Jesus could bring them all back.
So... what should we do when a leader falls?
1) Examine ourselves for hidden sin and repent. 2) Leave our stones on the ground unless we are completely sinless. If we've done #1, we will know we aren't. (John 8:7)3) Pray for the one who has failed. (1 Samuel 12:23) 4) Grieve the sin, but keep our mouths shut unless we have something beneficial to say. (Ephesians 4:29) 5) Trust that God can, and will, address the sin. (James 3:1)
When a leader fails publicly, they put themselves in a terrible position. The warnings in Scripture about the responsibility of a leader are terrifying. James makes it perfectly clear. Leaders will be judged more strictly. That judgment will come from Jesus Himself. Unless we are the one directly responsible for consequences, we are to pray and guard our own hearts.
Peter makes it clear that God's desire is for all to come to repentance, including fallen leaders, and that should be our desire, too. 
If we don't grieve the moral failure of even the most godly of leaders, we should. Making judgments helps no one. Let's examine our own lives and pray to God that we don't make a costly mistake of our own.  
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others us according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29
P.S.: While you're praying for yourself, please pray for me, too. I'm as capable as Simon Peter of falling into temptation, and I don't want to do it. Only the grace of God can keep me on the straight and narrow path. Pray I stay there. Pray for all the other leaders you know, too. 

(1) Accessed 7/21/17
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Caregiver Chronicles: Leaving the Help Behind and Stumbling Your Way Through

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