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.