When Will We Cry Out in Repentance?

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My heart has been heavy all week. A much-anticipated report was released earlier this week regarding sexual abuse allegations within Southern Baptist life, and the findings in this 288-page report are not good. Far from it. And I am grieved.

  • I am grieved for those who were victims of sexual abuse.
  • I am grieved for these victims whose stories were ignored or downplayed for so long.
  • I am grieved for those who thought this was OK, excused their behavior, and/or did not take seriously the call to godly obedience. I am grieved for the apparent lack of repentance.

It is not necessary for me to tell of the abuses and events noted in this report. I encourage you to read the report for yourself by clicking here. It boggles my mind why anyone would think any form of sexual harassment or abuse is OK or—assuming they knew it was wrong—why they thought they could get away with it. How can a person live with himself, knowing how he treated another person, a person God values and treasures?

But as I want to harangue such abusers, I realize so many of us in ministry have committed other sins against others: treating staff members as indentured servants, fudging on our use of church funds, outbursts of anger, making selfish demands, and the list goes on. I am not equating the grievous act of sexual abuse with simply losing one’s temper, but all behavior, words, and attitudes that are not brought under the lordship of Christ only serve as a blight on our ministry and credibility. Even more so, it is a dark shadow that prevents others from seeing the light of Christ. And for that, we will be held accountable.

“Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1).

The credibility of our witness is especially called into question when sexual harassment or abuse is involved. The world may write off some sins and behavior as “no big deal,” but even the irreligious recognize that sexual abuse is wrong. Sexual abuse is a sin even the eyes of the world, and even as it is a grievous sin against the victim, it is also a sin against the God we claim to speak for.

This past Sunday, I was a guest in a church where I preached one thing: It’s all about Jesus. Everything in the church and everything in my life is to be all about Jesus. Unfortunately, we have made church about what we want, our preferences, and how we like to do things. We have forsaken our first love (Rev. 2:4).

We church leaders like to call others to repent, but if we want to see people’s hearts turn to God in repentance, let’s set the example. People will fall on their knees before God when they see us doing it. We’ve made the church about ourselves. We’ve made the ministries God has given us about ourselves.

It’s time to repent.

I pray that those who have been called out as sexual offenders will own up to what they’ve done and repent. Don’t play the victim. Repent. Don’t excuse one ounce of your sin. Repent.

Until Christ returns, sin will still be a part of life—and unfortunately, it will still be a part of church life. We are sinners who continue to feel the tug of temptation and the sin nature, but may we stand strong in the power of the Holy Spirit and live obedient, Christ-honoring lives. When we do—when we make our lives and ministries all about Jesus—the world will stand up and take notice in a good way.

It’s not too late. Repent.

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