“But a prophet of the Lord was there, whose name was Oded; and he went out before the army that came to Samaria, and said to them: ‘Look, because the Lord God of your fathers was angry with Judah, He has delivered them into your hand; but you have killed them in a rage that reaches up to heaven … but are you not also guilty before the Lord your God? Now hear me, therefore, and return the captives, whom you have taken captive from your brethren, for the fierce wrath of the Lord is upon you.’ … Then the men who were designated by name rose up and took the captives, and from the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them, dressed them and gave them sandals, gave them food and drink, and anointed them; and they let all the feeble ones ride on donkeys. So they brought them to their brethren at Jericho, the city of palm trees …”
-2 Chr. 28:9-11, 15)
Scandal has broken out in the churches. Pastors who beat their children, pastors having affairs or defrauding the church’s finances. It’s all around us and making front page news literally everywhere. This is the stuff that journalists dream of. After all, isn’t church hypocrisy the crème de la crème for commercial journalism? And its not just the opportunity to smear a “saint” that so many find alluring. It’s the ability to get into the juicy details of a life that should represent Christ himself. And the world reads the news and wrinkles its collective nose in disgust: this is Christ?
Sadly, this sadistic spirit of gossip and slander doesn’t only show it’s ugly face in the papers, it also shows up in prayer meetings, bible studies, and on the facebook pages of so-called respectable Christians everywhere. I began praying in earnest about this situation a week or so ago, when a pastor very near my hometown, at perhaps one of the largest churches in the area, was forced to resign amid a scandal that no doubt has rocked his congregation to their very core. The accusations are irrelevant … the courts will ultimately decided his innocence or guilt, but in the hearts and minds of the people who live here, it seems that their minds are already made up. He’s guilty on all counts. I found all this out while perusing facebook one day … in a string of comments made by people in my own church. They’ve already decided in their hearts and proclaimed to the world his guilt and shame. It hurt me to see the body of Christ working against itself.
I was led to this word in 2 Chronicles, which I believe is the Lord’s wisdom in such situations as scandal in the church. To give you a little background information, this particular story involved the divided kingdom which became Judah and Israel. The Israelites still in Israel were sent of the Lord to punish the sins of the Israelites living in Judah. Apparently they gave it 110%. The prophet told them, “He delivered them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that reaches up to heaven.” In other words, you have taken it a little too far. You’ve done way more than God instructed you to do, and you have increased their shame and your own sin. “ … but are you not also guilty before the Lord your God?” A rage that reaches up to heaven? That’s intense hatred and hatefulness. Why would such an attitude be directed toward brethren? Could it be that our hatred increases to the level of our self-righteousness? And do not miss that the prophet called them their “brethren.” Those in the body of Christ are our brothers! Saying nothing of their guilt or innocence, is this the way to treat a bother?
Notice that when the army responded to the prophet, they “took the captives, and from the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them, dressed them and gave them sandals, gave them food and drink, and anointed them.” With the ability to do whatever they thought was proper and right with the people God had firmly decided to punish, they clothed the naked, gave them sandals, fed them and anointed them. Let’s dissect this a little: In accordance with the will of God, they clothed the naked. They took people whose shame and nakedness was completely exposed and covered them. They covered their shame. Instead of taking advantage of their vulnerability, they covered them. They didn’t point and laugh, gossip behind their backs. They didn’t exacerbate the situation by posting scandalous photos and juicy gossip in the town square or on facebook. The reality is that any man in the church caught in scandal, whether guilty in fact or guilty only in the hearts and minds of the world, shares that shame with the rest of the church. We are the body! When one part of the body is sick or suffering, the whole body is sick and suffering. When one part of the body is exposed to shame and vulnerability, the whole body is as well. Do not think that one man’s shame doesn’t touch the rest of us. Why would we, as the church, propagate a negative perspective of Christ in the world?
In addition to clothing, they supplied sandals. Sandals allow a man to walk in comfort on a rocky road home. When a leader sins in such a way as to command the attention of the world, it is the church’s responsibility to supply a way for that man to walk in comfort on the rocky road before them. The world will assure that man suffers heavily for his transgression. May I suggest that we the church provide in whatever way necessary that those the Lord has called may be redeemed back to the Father’s heart. Because such a man can be restored to the Lord, despite our opinions of whether or not he should be. Thank God, we are not the judge!
The warriors also fed the people and anointed them. This, I believe, is indicative of the way we as a church should respond to a wandering leader. We should nourish him. We should allow that his heart may remain full. Remember, the world will go above and beyond to punish him or her. The church must stand in assurance of faith that we will provide nourishment. We must also be faithful to anoint him or her. Thus, we must be willing to pray over them and their situations. It is not the will of God for their shame to be mercilessly exposed, but covered! If He is willing to forgive them, so should we be. And we should also be willing to pray for them that they may be dealt with in the most restorative way, that they may find their way back to the Lord.
Once they had dealt with these immediate needs of their captives, the army then led the people back to their land. Wow! Don’t miss that. They led them back to the place that the Lord had originally positioned them. Do not forget the story of the High Priest, Jeshua, in Zechariah 3. The devil himself stood before the Lord to accuse the man. Satan does not need our help accusing our brethren. Nor should we be so zealous to give it to him. Jeshua was guilty on all counts and he stood before the Lord wearing all the evidence of his guilt. His clothing was stained from his sin. God saw it! And He simply said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you!” He didn’t discuss the sin or the guilt. Jeshua was repentant and the Lord himself rebuked his accuser. I think the church should take heed of this, lest the Lord also rebuke us for participating in the scheme of Satan to destroy the church. What should we be doing instead? Take notes from the armies of Israel: lead them back home: “and they let all the feeble ones ride on donkeys. So they brought them to their brethren at Jericho, the city of palm trees …”