When Leaders Fall
By: Hope Johnson
4 min. read
Only Two Kinds of Men
A friend once rolled her eyes at my seemingly naïve idealism about faithfulness in marriage. “There are two kinds of men, Hope,” she said. “Those who know how to hide they’re cheating, and those who don’t.”
Men like the late Ravi Zacharias were evidence against the veracity of her cynical maxim—a monogamous relationship, ever deepening in love that reflected Christ and the church, was possible. Ravi’s teaching had always inspired me, but the pure, beautiful way he’d described his marriage in his autobiography had especially encouraged me this past summer. So it’s an understatement to say my equilibrium was thrown off when I read the allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
As I processed the allegations, the thought snaked in that just maybe, my friend had been right. The accusations have yet to be proven, but regardless, my shock upon reading them propelled me into a sad, quiet searching as I asked myself, “Is sexual purity even possible in our culture? If even he fell, then what hope do the rest of us have?”
The statistics about pornography usage and infidelity don’t offer much encouragement, and our personal experiences combined with the fall of respected Christians make victory seem like a teasing utopia. With a sin so formidable that it seduces even the most committed Christians, wouldn’t it be less painful to lower our expectations, to acknowledge that it’s a battle, yes, but a losing one?
Not all Leaders Fall
But before my thoughts spiraled into hopelessness, I remembered the story of Caleb. Caleb was one of twelve Israelite spies called to scout out the land God had promised to His people. Based on what they saw, the odds of defeating the land’s inhabitants and claiming it as their own were abysmal: “the people who live[d] there were powerful, and the cities [were] fortified and very large” (Num. 13:28).
Ten of the twelve spies threw up their hands and said it wasn’t even worth a try. The prudent choice would be to retreat, wait it out, be content with just getting by. But “Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it’” (Num. 13:30).
Caleb was crazy.
Or was he?
The Lord said this of Caleb, “Because Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, he will see the promised land” (Num. 14:24).
A different spirit.
As I remembered those words, a heart doused by despair reignited. Whatever this different spirit of Caleb was, I wanted it.
A Different Spirit
Caleb was the same flesh and blood as the other spies, prone to fear of death and intelligent enough to realize that logically, if they entered the land, the enemy could extinguish both their people and the Lord’s renown in one fell swoop. But Caleb realized that God’s leading and power made the statistics irrelevant. He was willing to risk falling because if he fell, he knew he would fall into the arms of the God he trusted.
With human strength, victory was utterly unlikely, but by God’s power, defeat was impossible. And God rewarded Caleb for his faith, not only with entrance into the promised land, but with the legacy of having “a different spirit.”
In a culture where sexual purity seems unattainable, Caleb’s example gives me hope. It tells me that victory is possible, but not because we who fight are stronger than the rest. If Caleb had tried to do it in his own strength, he would have died a bloody death.
Where Do You Fall?
We often fight sexual sin in our own strength because we have a distorted view of God. Don’t we often view God as having his arms crossed, rolling his eyes as we strive for purity but mess up again and again? One look at the Gospels though, and this false image will disintegrate. The Scriptures paint the picture of a kind-eyed Savior who fights for you and with you, embracing you in compassionate arms when you fail.
Before Jesus exhorts his disciples to abide in him, he doesn’t call for shame and penance as prerequisites for intimacy with Him. Instead, he says, “You are already clean because of the words I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).
If you have put your faith in Christ, he views you as spotless. In a striking paradox, his blood cleanses the dirtiest of hands and his Word rescues a mind once captivated by the enemy. His grace woos us to life and says that when we fall, we will fall into the arms of our Savior.
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Bio: Hope Johnson is a teacher and writer based in Upstate New York. She has a passion for writing through the hard questions of the Christian life to lay hold of the truth. She blogs at hopeunyielding.com.