September 19, 2020 By Larne Gabriel
In recent weeks, a bizarre story emerged from the leadership of Liberty University. What started with a questionable Instagram photo being posted on August 7th, ended with a perverse scandal and most likely forced resignation of the President of the University, Jerry Falwell Jr. on August 25th. A week later he was found bloodied and intoxicated after falling, according to Fox News. While the news was shocking to many in Evangelical circles these types of behaviors don’t happen in a vacuum. There are generally signs that are evident to those closest to the person. But all too often those closest have been hindered from speaking out for some of the following reasons:
1) A faulty understanding of what the Bible truly says about rebuking an elder and who is an elder.
o “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
2) They have tied their own reputation on the failed person or organization and their pride gets in the way of good and righteous judgement.
o “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” Proverbs 8:13
o “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:12
o “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
3) The belief by speaking against or rebuking an elder publicly they would defame the name of Christ.
o From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is about sin and judgement or sin and repentance. God gives us a choice and the permission to rebuke an elder or any believing sinner for that matter.
o “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” 1 Timothy 5:19-20 (see “Rebuking an Elder” article)
4) A false understanding of scripture regarding judging, often taught by elder/pastors to keep people in their place as a form of division between the scripturally learned and unlearned. Too often we see the belief that, judging evil is even worse than doing evil! This is an unbiblical belief and should be confessed rather than applauded in the name of "tolerance “or in deference to the position of sinning elders. Jesus was intensely intolerant of evil sinful practices, especially among the scripturally learned Pharisees, as were Paul and the OT prophets.
o In Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matthew 7:1-6 we are cautioned about judging others, but not prevented. We are to make sure our own lives are without unrepented sins and that we are not hypocritical in our rebukes. In verses 15-20 Jesus warns of false prophets who will lead you astray and that you will know them by their fruits. Too often we quantify their fruits by their audience size or following but fail to recognize or inquire diligently about their life style, administrative excesses or what Jesus calls “bad fruit from a diseased tree”, which nullifies the tree’s value and it to be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Christ calls us to rebuke those believers who are in sin, including leaders. I can’t help but wonder what excesses or behavior those close to the Liberty University scandal saw in Jerry Falwell Jr. and if they have regrets about not rebuking him earlier based on the reasons I mentioned above. If so, they too have the responsibility to come clean admit their sin and step down. Any investigation they do needs to be made public so as to be in accordance with 1 Timothy 5:20, “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”
Confess, repent, ask forgiveness, make restitution, all this involves a change in thinking and behavior.
I suggest reading Dr. Chuck Lynch’s “Biblical Pattern for Reconciliation”. Link below (free download)