By Tissa Attygalle
How should fellow Christians judge Jimmy Swaggart the popular television evangelist -who confessed to moral lapses in his life? To find the answer Christians must turn to the only authority available to them - the word of God, the Bible. The Bible has a parallel to EVERY human situation that can ever happen - "What has happened before will happen again. What has been done before will be done again", "Whatever happens or can happen has already happened before" (Eccelesiastes 1.9 & 3.15). This is why the Bible is the Book of Life.
We find a parallel to Jimmy's ordeal in the life of King David. David was a man of God from his boyhood and was controlled by the Holy Spirit from the day he was anointed king by the prophet Samuel (1 Sam 16.13). Throughout his life David had unflinching faith in God. God referred to David as "A man after mine own heart"( Acts 13.22). 'Yet when David was king reigning over all of Israel and Judah, he committed adultery with Bathsheba and deliberately planned the death of her husband Uriah (2 Sam. 11.1 - 27). All King David's subjects looked up to him not only as a kind and just king but but also as their spiritual guide and leader. How was King David judged? Did the priests and the people demand David to abdicate? No - The prophet Nathan confronted David with his sin and David recognized his sin, and bitterly repented for committing it. God who reads the hearts of men (Jer 17.10) saw David had truly repented of his sins and forgave his, nevertheless David had to face the consequence of his sinful actions. His first born son by Bathsheba died (2 Sam 12,13,14). King David's subjects respected him even more because even though he was a king, he humbled himself and confessed his sins. His subjects left the judging and the punishing in the hands of God. As a result, their faith in God increased by witnessing God's actions which revealed to them that their God was truly great and mighty and "No respector of persons" (Acts 10.34).
The tendency of laymen is to try to make gods of men of religion. They fail to realize that doing so is committing the sin of idolatry. Then when their idols fall short of their expectations, they begin to play God by sitting in judgment of their fallen idols. Christians should not be followers of men but only of Jesus.
They should judge the word that is preached and not the preacher.
Paul points out this error made by followers - "When one of you says 'I follow Paul', and another, 'I follow Apollos' - aren't you acting like worldly people? After all who is Apollos? and who is Paul? we are simply God's servants by whom you were led to believe. Each one of us does the work which the Lord gave him to do; I sowed the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow. The one who sows and the one who waters really does not matter. It is God who matters, because he makes the plant grow" (l Cor 3.4 - 7). Laymen forget that preachers are human beings too and not gods. Paul too confronted this problem. Paul had healed a lame man who had faith in Jesus Christ and the onlookers immediately started to shout, "the gods have become like men and have come down to us!", and were preparing to offer Paul and Barnabas sacrifices. Paul and Barnabas then tore their clothes off and explained to the crowd, "Why are you doing this? We ourselves are ONLY human beings like you!" However the very same crowd who later on were won over by some Jews who were against Paul, stoned Paul until they thought he was dead. (Acts 14. 8 - 19).
Jimmy like David compromised the word of God to satisfy his own desires. Jimmy while accusing others of adultery thought he was not guilty of the same sin: as he had not actually performed the physical act of sexual intercourse.. He forgot that Jesus had said the very thought of taking another woman is committing adultery (Matt 5. 28). This is why the righteous Job had made a promise never to look at a girl with lust (Job 31.1). Jimmy also forgot that God's laws are EVER active, NON - changeable and NON -stoppable - "God will judge you the SAME way you judge OTHERS and he will apply to you the SAME rules you apply to others" (Matt.7. 2), "What you have done will be done to you. You will get what you have given " (Obadiah1.15). The Bible warns in no uncertain terms against adultery - "the lips of another man's wife say be as sweet as honey and her kisses as sMooth as olive oil, but when it is all over, she leaves you nothing but bitterness and pain" (Pro 5.3,4), and of its consequence - "and Suddenly I found myself publicly disgraced" (Prv 5.14). Jimmy failed to heed Jesus' warning against hypocrisy too - Whatever is covered up will be uncovered and every secret will be made known. So then, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in broad daylight, and whatever you have whispered in private in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops" (Luke 12. 2, 3).
Jimmy has not escaped God's punishment. If he is truly repentant, God will forgive him. For Jesus clearly stated - "And so I tell you that people CAN be forgiven ANY sin and ANY evil thing they say" (Matt 12.31). The ONLY unpardonable sin a man can commit is the sin of abandoning his faith in Christ, which is sinning against the Holy Spirit (Matt 12.32, Heb 6.4 - 6, 10.26). No man can be perfect - "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and there is no truth in us" (1 John 1.18). The lesson all Christians in this incident is that if this could happen to a man like Jimmy, it could very well happen to any one of us - "Be alert, be on the watch your enemy, the devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5.8). If Jimmy has truly repented, God will lift him up again whatever men may want to do to him - "Humble yourselves, then, under God's mighty hand, so that he will lifts you up in his own good time" (1 Peter 5. 6,7). Millions agree that Jimmy correctly preached the word of God which led many thousands to believe in Jesus Christ. The Bible states "Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; do not despise inspired messages" (l Thes 5.19, 20). It would therefore be wrong to silence Jimmy. So let us unlike the Pharisees drop the stones we picked up to hurl at Jimmy and instead pray to God to give Jimmy the strength to come out of his valley of darkness into light.
* "The others do not proclaim Christ sincerely but from a spirit of selfish ambitions; …. It does
NOT matter ! I am happy about it - so long as CHRIST is preached in EVERY way possible,
WHETHER FROM WRONG OR RIGHT MOTIVES." The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:17,18)
N.B. Bible quotations taken from the GOOD NEWS BIBLE.
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