When Heroes Fall

Heroes sin. You don’t have to live very long before you could write a list of people you have admired who have made sinful choices. Oh how I wish this was uncommon, but it’s not. Lest you think this disappointment is a new feature of this culture, scan through the book of Jeremiah. The Lord calls out Israel’s shepherds:

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds,” declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 23:1-2

How do we handle the sadness, the pain of a hero’s fall without letting the bitterness seep in? A friend recently asked, “What do I tell my girls? They are devastated by the news of . . .” If I was sitting in their living room, here are a few things that I would walk through with them.

Explore the truth. What happened? Are you looking at accusations of wrong-doing, is there evidence? Remember that regardless of what room you have been in, what insider info you have culled, or how many twitter feeds you have read, you don’t have the whole story. What you hear and read is biased in some way. Let your lack of omniscience keep your heart soft and humble. (And frankly, wouldn’t all of our dealings with people be more reflective of God’s grace if we remembered this?)

Give thanks for the contribution the individual has made to your life. Stick with me here for a minute. What was it about their life, ministry, or friendship that blessed you? We can see throughout Scripture that God uses flawed, sinful, and even evil people to work His will and shape His people for their good and His glory. Abraham and his lies? Moses committed murder? David, well, that list would take a while. Solomon supported idolatry. Hezekiah bragged the kingdom into exile. Gods work doesn’t change even when His instruments are sinners. The consistency of God’s truth doesn’t depend on the purity of any person’s motives or actions. Only God is utterly holy, but He chooses to work in and through sinful people. I’m so glad of that!

Mourn the brokenness of the world. The moral failure of those who claim to be God’s shepherds is awful. The exposed sin of our heroes drives us back to Genesis 3 where we see Adam and Eve hiding from the omnipresent, omniscient God. Now, as then, relationships are broken, creation groans, and sin brings death, of hopes, of dreams, of life together. Lament the false understanding that the watching world will have of the Gospel. Mourn your loss. Weep for the pain of their families and churches.

Leave judgement to the Holy God. Report sin and abuse to the proper authorities? Yes, for sure! That is one reason the Lord has set up governments. Testify? If necessary, of course. But, please, recognize that your goal in life is ultimately to point people to Jesus. Earthly justice can never bring full satisfaction for wrongs done. I have been thankful over the years for the God-breathed inspired psalms of David:

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
    fight against those who fight against me!
Take hold of shield and buckler
    and rise for my help!
Draw the spear and javelin[a]
    against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
    “I am your salvation!”
Psalm 35:1-3

Recognize the capacity for sin in your own heart. You know those moments when you are half a breath away from making your own sinful choice? “‘Tis grace that brought {you} safe thus far, and grace will lead {you} home.” I don’t say this to dismiss the impact of sin or to create empathy for it, but to recognize the ease with which one could themselves fall into it. Paul reminded Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Six hundred years after God called out those shepherds in Jeremiah, He sent His own Son, Jesus, to show what a holy, righteous, just King really looks like. Every time we find ourselves disappointed by the sin of one of our heroes, may we look with joy to His rule in our hearts and with expectation to the time when He rules the sinless world in truth and grace. Maranatha!


  1. […] “Why do you suppose the Lord allows such awful sin to happen in the midst of His people?” A conversation, a sermon, and a few chapters in 1 Samuel collided this morning into a few thoughts on sin made public. Whether it is the travesty of Ravi Zacharias or the narcissism of Mark Driscoll or Josh Harris’ apostacy, we have all been hurt, even devastated when friends, parents, or leaders fail. […]


  2. I think of the famous preacher who was told by a listener that he is the holiest man she had ever known. His humble reply was this: Dear lady there is not one sin I am incapable of commuting one half hour from this meeting. I, like you, am dependant on God’s abiding grace!


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