If you have ever had someone you look up to fall from grace, you know the accompanying pain with their fall. Whether it was a moral failure or skeletons emerging from a closet, the news is shocking and devastating. It seems all the more regular that I hear of someone’s role model being exposed for living a hidden life.
While we know that people aren’t perfect, it is painfully difficult to watch someone fall from the pedestal on which we placed him or her.
It is tragic not only for the person who fell and his or her family, but oftentimes, there are countless numbers of people hidden in the shadow of that fallen person who are absolutely broken by the news who can find themselves “distressed and dispirited, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). After receiving the news, some will seek counsel or encouragement from others, while many will internalize their pain and suffer through times of discouragement, disbelief, or depression.
In those moments, you realize that no man is an island and everyone’s sins affects someone else.
I can say that what I do doesn’t impact others but that is just ignorance and negligence. Your sin hurts more than just you.
You have probably experienced the pain associated when a pastor, teacher, family member, role model, or friend let you down at some point in your life. If that is you, here are some things to remember.
#1. Don’t Discount Their Impact
If you know someone who you looked up to who followed Christ and then experienced some type of moral failure, don’t simply discount their impact. Even if you feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath you, that doesn’t mean that the good that your mentor did is now invalid. If someone impacted your life for Christ ten years ago, don’t let their mistake today take away from their investment into your life.
Even at your mentor’s best moment, he or she was still a sinful person in need of Jesus.
When that mentor was doing more for the Kingdom than ever before, he or she was only worthy due to Christ within him or her. Any good came from God!
Look at how David put it:
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have not good apart from you.’ –Psalm 16:1-2
The only good we have is what God does in us. So if a person who impacted you yesterday has walked away from Christ today, you can still thank God for their impact because God was using them. Their mistakes may taint their ministry but it doesn’t mean that it completely ruins it. Celebrate what God can do through a willing vessel.
And then you begin the process of making sure you don’t make the same mistakes.
#2. Don’t Overlook Your Frailty
When someone you look up to stops following Christ, don’t overlook your own frailty. It is so easy to get caught up in the shock surrounding their fall, that you feel dumbfounded at how someone could fall from grace so far.
In that state, it is easy to imagine yourself impervious to ever falling.
“If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Cor 10:12).
As Christians, we often are shocked when someone does one of the “really bad” sins, but yet we tolerate respectable sins in our own lives. Sins in private don’t bring immediate consequences like when someone gets caught, so we show disdain for those caught yet inwardly we can have something lingering on the inside ourselves.
Make no mistake: the Devil is in no rush to take you out.
He has a plan to take you out (John 10:10), but he is not in a rush (1 Pet 5:8). He is meticulous. He is very strategic. He is slowing chipping away at your defenses. The problem is when we fail to forget we are at war with a real enemy, it is almost as if we are inviting him to attack.
Right now, he already has a plan to get you to the unthinkable sins that is paved by the small sins that you don’t concern yourself with.
If you have been devastated by watching one of your mentors fall, the greatest way to honor what remains positive of their legacy is by discovering the steps it took them to get there, and then safeguarding yourself that you never go down that path.
Cause if you don’t think “it” could happen to you, you are already heading down that direction.
#3. Don’t Confuse the Fallen for the Savior
Finally, remember that we are called to follow Jesus (Matt. 4:19) and not man. While our living is supposed to be worthy of imitation as we imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), your mentor didn’t save you from your sins by dying on the cross, Jesus did. And Jesus has never let you down.
Feel free to grieve over the failure of your mentor. You should.
It is tragic, it is hard, and it shouldn’t have happened.
But it did.
In the midst of the tragedy, turn your sorrow into praise over the fact that we have one who has never let us down.
“For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:18).
He was tempted in all the things that cause us to fail, yet he never failed.
Weep over those who have fallen, but rejoice in the salvation that you have due to the one who never did.