In June Tullian Tchividjian, a well-known, often-quoted pastor who loved to preach about God’s unlimited grace, stepped down because of an affair.
In typical fashion, the “popular pastor falls from grace” story made news for a while. Believers were disappointed and hurt, while some were smug. Unbelievers pointed out yet another example of believers’ hypocrisy. Like in most scandals, those who had been “shamed” disappeared.
But this time, after only a little over a month, Tchividjian (who is Billy Graham’s grandson) stepped back into the news. On his Facebook page, this preacher of grace admitted that he simply wanted to hide after news broke of his and his wife’s separate affairs. “But if I run away because I don’t want you to see me broken and weak and sad and angry and struggling with fear and guilt and shame, then I fail to practice what I preach—and one of the many things I’ve learned from this is that failing to practice what you preach is destructive,” he says.
I get that desire to disappear, don’t you? I love to write each week about how Jesus forgives your sins, but I don’t want you to know what my sins are. It’s okay with me if you are flawed and broken and forgiven, but I don’t want to appear weak. How arrogant is that? If I portray that I am always strong, I miss the opportunity to share that anything good I do is actually the power of Christ working in me. If I keep quiet when I’m hurting, you won’t be able to follow God’s command to carry my burdens. If I make you think my family has it all together all the time, then you don’t see that our home is the place where we get daily opportunities to practice repentance, forgiveness, and grace. If I don’t tell you when I’m anxious, I will miss out on having you pray for me. So, like Paul, we “boast all the more gladly about [our] weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on [us]” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Admittedly, this kind of living is messy. It takes courage to share your struggles, to ask people to pray for you. It’s messy to live with the aftermath and let others into your life as you are wrestling with issues and anxiety. And, if your problems are caused by your behavior, it is humbling and embarrassing.
Pastor Tchividjian tweeted, “No vertical condemnation does not mean no horizontal consequences.” So while he does need to step away from the pastoral ministry for a while because he disqualified himself, he is still serves as a witness. So do you. So do I. Being forgiven and having the Father run to greet the prodigal is a story of redemption the world needs to see.
If you hide and don’t give God the glory when you’re broken, the broken won’t know that, thanks to Jesus, the Father is ready to run and welcome them home too.
Linda Buxa is a writer, Bible study leader, and retreat speaker. Currently she is wrestling with worrying, then praying about it, then worrying right away again—as if God might not be completely capable of handling whatever she is stressed about at the moment.