Lessons Pastors/Leaders/Influencers Can Learn From Scandals – Part 2

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln (and we thought he was quoted a lot before, by the time Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis are done, Abe’s quotes are going to be as ubiquitous as Taylor Swift. But I digress.)

In my previous post on what we can learn from these recent scandals, I mentioned the possible reasons can be from the need to escape, falling into temptation because of the opportunities that present themselves (sometimes from being pursued or preyed upon) and offered a few thoughts on them.

There is a third reason that I think is important to discuss and worthy of its own post and here’s what I offered previously:
“Perhaps it doesn’t have anything to with being preyed upon or a real need for escape but instead – people reveal their true selves when given power, wealth and access along with the misguided notion that “I can get away with it.”


I think that is scary because it points to that people can capable of great evil and how easy they are able to either be the main character of the evil acts or the conduit of it. Power can bring liberation to an entire nation or with a few simple words and a seal that represents a particular office can bring great pain and devastation to another nation. That is scary.

This is very difficult for us to get – we just don’t have access to such power. What we can relate to is that each of us have this idea of the life we think we should live. And to cut to the chase, when things don’t go our way, we are not only disappointed but we feel that something is “owed” to us. Now some of the these things are petty, some are downright tragic and there’s a lot in the middle. Numerous times I have heard people say, “I just didn’t ever think my life would end up like this.”

It seems when you have power, you not only see the opportunity to gain back the things you felt owed to you but you delude yourself into thinking that you are either an exception to the rule or that you will get away with it. This is the point of the Lincoln quote – give someone power and they will reveal their character.

Then there’s our context here in the West. Ordinary men and women can gain status and clout by talent that is either quantified into wealth or acquire an office by a democratic election or an appointing for the common good. In the church world, committees search, deliberate, hire, and ordain thereby granting authority to do great works of good in the name of God.

But sadly month after month, and sometimes week after week, we hear of another scandal and tarnish another name – Petraeus, Armstrong, and Sandusky – How does this keep happening? How do we stop it? What can we as leaders learn from such terrible scandals?

We often label the root cause to such behavior as an issue of entitlement. It seems the first step in confronting our entitlement is to expand the term to include the selfish notion that wrongfully desires “the life we thought we were suppose to have.” When we look at it that way, we can identify some of our weaknesses and potential temptations.

For the pastor and Christian ministry type, it seems our entitlement may also come from an incomplete theology of salvation, calling and mission. It’s worth considering just what happens at conversion, and what needs to happen in the doctrine of regeneration. Further, if we could think less selfishly of how we think we should live in Christ and extend it to how others should live, we would overcome our issues of entitlement and focus more on justice, compassion, and seek the common good in a way that truly serves people and honors God.

The two go hand in hand. This is why so many are so devastated when powerful people we have trusted use their position to not only selfishly please/profit themselves but also add to the injustice and abuse/rob from the weaker. And this is what pastors/leaders/influencers are to do – join the work of God in bringing His justice, redemption and hope to others.

There will always be scandals, there will always be abuses of power and we should continue to seek, remove and punish the scandalizer. The good news is that all of us seek and celebrate character, we are a world that is always looking for heroes and inspiration, this is among the reasons why so many of us are captivated by the story of Jesus. May we learn from our failures, from the failures of others and may we rely on God’s grace to follow in his footsteps.

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