The Fall of God’s Servant

by Judi Chow

Few years ago, a story of a pastor appeared in the front pages of several Hong Kong newspapers. The headline was so big it caught my attention across the restaurant. It was about a forty-one-year old married, ordained pastor who sexually and physically assaulted a twenty-three-year old girl who goes to his church. The victim has the mental ability of a seven-year-old child. The accused admitted this “affair” has been going on for more than a year! How could this be? Isn’t a pastor supposed to protect and feed his lambs? How can a man of integrity and honor sin in such disgrace and horror? It brought shame to the whole Christian community, particularly among the ministers.

I was alarmed by a comment that appeared in the newspaper: “Pastors are also human,” which means they are prone to sin just like anyone else. That is what I have been saying about missionaries, but it is not an excuse for anyone’s sinful acts. Is it possible for a servant of the Lord to willfully sin so outrageously? I remembered an old folk warning that if you throw a frog in boiling water he will quickly jump out. But if you put a frog in a pan of cold water and raise the temperature ever so slowly, the gradual warming will make the frog doze happily… in fact, the frog will eventually cook to death, without ever waking up! Satan can lure people in with cozy feelings or a sense of temporal security. Before you know it, you’re rationalizing: I am not really hurting anyone else; the Lord understands and will forgive; it’s OK as long as no one knows; I can’t help it, the devil made me do it. Can’t you feel the heat gradually rising?

The only deterrent to sin is clinging to the Lord, pursuing His Holiness, and living in the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s easier said than done and requires strict discipline. I see one of the dangerous pitfalls for Chinese Christian leaders is that they are only accountable to the Lord. I remember one fallen pastor who once said; I felt so close to the Lord that He will not let me sin! He trusted his feelings and forgot God gave us free will. He was caught with another woman in his congregation. How I wish all servants of the Lord would develop some sort of accountability group or partners with the permission to ask pointed and harsh questions to keep him/her faithful and holy.

I believe God can and does forgive all sinners including the sins of fallen pastors and missionaries. Any punishment should be for the purpose of restoration, but there is consequence to sin. Adam and Eve experienced immediate separation from the Lord after eating the forbidden fruit, yet the Lord made garments to clothe them. This act of love and care was bestowed upon them not because of what they did but because of who HE is! The consequence of that headline pastor’s crime was 21 months imprisonment. I do pray his remorse was genuine and when he has served his sentence, he can experience the true forgiveness of the Lord as well as of men.

Washing Hands, Washing Feet

by Judi Chow

It has been awhile since the SARS outbreak and hand washing has become a ritual as well as a necessity for health reasons. I enjoy washing my hands and seeing how clean they get especially when I have been out in the streets of Hong Kong. I never thought too much of washing my hands because it is like brushing my teeth. It is something you do everyday; it is a habit… until this Easter. It happened on Good Friday when I was just simply washing my hands. As the water ran through my fingers and the suds formed on my palms, I thought of a man who washed his hands… in public.

Pontius Pilate made a choice yet didn’t want to bear the responsibility of it by publicly washing his hands. This symbolic act might have eased his guilt, but deep down he knew he had condemned an innocent man. No amount of water or soap could clean his conscience. What drove him to make that choice? What went through his mind? What was more important to him at that point? He was just doing his job, keeping the peace, preventing an uproar, satisfying the crowd. The situation was beyond his control. We all know too well how to come up with reasonable excuses for our actions. It is easy to point the finger and say the devil made me do it. Deep down, we know the truth; no amount of excuses can cover up the truth. Ironically, that was precisely the question Pilate asked, What is truth? Three times he had appealed to the crowd wanting to release Jesus, yet finally he chose the act of washing his hands.

As I continued to rub my hands and allowed the water to rinse away the dirt along with the suds, another image surfaced. Clean hands touching dirty feet. A basin of water on the floor, a towel on the waist, and the clean hands of Jesus washing and drying the disciples’ dirty feet. This act was more than symbolic. It was a chore no one wanted, a dirty job for the servants. Jesus, the teacher, the Son of God, the Prince of peace took on the role of a servant, acted in humility and love. As He knelt before each of His disciples, taking hold of their feet, one after another gently, orderly, thoroughly, touching, washing, and wiping them clean. The disciples were puzzled, stunned, or like Peter, tried to refuse this act of washing. How can our respected, authoritative teacher wash our feet? Jesus knew exactly what He was doing. Yes, their feet were dirty and needed washing, but He was trying to set an example for the disciples to follow in serving one another. His time was almost up, and He knew they all wanted to be leaders. He had to train His followers how to be proper Godly leaders with a servant’s attitude. Jesus chose the act of washing their feet.

Both images in my mind were acts of washing, yet the meaning behind each was so different. One is so selfish and the other so selfless! Pilate washing his own hands and Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Water can only wash the outside clean for a short period of time, yet the blood of Jesus can clean the inside forever. Finally I turned off the water, and wiped my hands dry. I look at the palms of my hands and they looked clean. A smile of satisfaction and gratefulness came across my face. With open hands I say, thank you Lord, I am clean!