The scandals aren’t going away. Most of the time, we’re not in a position to affect the outcome. The real issue is how we respond within our own hearts. The challenge there is to examine our own hearts, and to guard against unhealthy and sinful ways of responding to the sins of others with an eye to honoring God in our lives and ministries in this dangerous world.
In the late 1980s, I came across Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. To this day, it’s one of the most impactful books I’ve read. I still remember entire sections of the book, including one of the best chapter titles I’ve encountered (“The Sadness of a Book Never Read”) and his description of what he calls the sinkhole syndrome: when our private worlds can no longer support the weight of events and stresses from the outside.
I began reading everything I could of MacDonald’s writings, and even remember going to hear him speak when he came to Toronto.
That’s why I was surprised to hear that, around the time that Ordering Your Private World was published, that MacDonald had engaged in an adulterous relationship.
It sounds naïve now, but I’d never encountered a pastor I respected who fell into adultery. I was especially surprised that someone could write so compelling about ordering his private world even as his inner world was inner world was in disarray.
A few years later, MacDonald released another book called Rebuilding Your Broken World. I felt cynical at first, but to this day it remains a book that informs my response to scandals. I haven’t read it in a while, but I think I’d still recommend it.
I’m no longer naïve. I’m not surprised when I hear of a Christian leader falling into sin. I have, however, learned three important lessons on how to guard my own heart when I hear of another leader who’s fallen.
Every scandal is an opportunity for me to evaluate the condition of my own heart and my own vulnerability to danger. I am not above falling into sin. The more I think that I’m immune, the greater that danger may be.
When we hear of scandals, Char and I often have an honest conversation with each other about the state of our own souls. Where are we tempted?