Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
A loud cry came from downstairs, “Mommmmmm!”. My heart nearly stopped but my body took flight as I raced down two stairs at a time and into the living room from where the scream had come. Expecting to see blood or some other horrific sight by the intensity of the scream, I was gratefully surprised when I arrived on the scene to find my daughter safely sitting in a chair reading her Bible. Feeling disappointed and betrayed, she looked up at me and said, “Why for fourteen years did you never tell me Noah got drunk and naked?”
She had me there. It just isn’t something you see in children’s Bibles or books. I explained that we weren’t trying to deceive her but just trying to keep things on a need-to-know basis! Her eyes had been opened to the frailty of all people–even godly ones. (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Maybe today is a good time for a refresher course on the topic. Just hours ago there was a press release informing the world that a pastor, “who isn’t YOUR pastor”–as my niece so aptly pointed out, stepped down from his pulpit and announced his resignation. Already the commentators have been unleashed. And when I say “commentators” I am not only referring to professional reporters or journalists who know some of the details. I’m also referring to social media commenters who even have less knowledge of the details. The name of the pastor is not relevant to what I want to share. Unfortunately, he won’t be the last person to be indecently exposed. Let’s look at the one who was the first.
Noah’s Drunkenness and Nakedness.
THE Noah, whom the Bible says was
- favored of the Lord (Genesis 6:8)
- a righteous man, blameless, walked with God (Genesis 6:9; 7:1)
- obedient to everything God commanded him (Genesis 6:22; 7:5)
- heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7)
also was “a man of the soil and planted a vineyard. He drank some of its wine and became drunk and lay uncovered INSIDE his tent. His son, Ham went INTO the tent, saw his father naked and went and told his two brothers who were OUTSIDE. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked BACKWARD and COVERED their father’s naked body.” (Genesis 9:20-23)(emphasis mine)
As Warren Wiersbe so fittingly puts it, “The history of Noah and his family now moves from rainbows to shadows and we behold the shameful sins of a great man of faith.” What I love about the Bible is that it keeps it real. All is revealed. We see this here in the story of Noah. We see it when scripture reveals how David, a man after God’s own heart, (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband murdered. (2 Samuel 11:1-27) We also see it in the stories of Abraham (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1), Isaac (Genesis 26:6-16), Jacob (Genesis 25:19-34; 27:1-41) and Moses (Numbers 20:7-13). The non-exhaustive list goes on: King Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Asa, and Joash in the Old Testament. To name a few in the New Testament, we get a glimpse of the frailty of Jesus’ three closest disciples, Peter, James and John. I know this is stating the obvious but we need to be reminded. Even great men and women of God wrestle with sin.
So What Are We Supposed To Do When We Learn Of The Struggles, Sins Or Failings Of Christian Leaders–Or Anyone Else For That Matter?
IF YOU ARE ON THE INSIDE OF THE TENT. If you have first-hand knowledge of the struggle, sin or failure, DON’T DO WHAT HAM DID! If this story of Noah’s drunkenness would have taken place today, Ham would have-as one fellow blogger put it-“…sold tickets. Come one, come all, come see my drunken father without his clothes on!!! Ham’s descendants have lived on and today are known as the news media, destroying people’s lives for profits. If Noah were alive today, Ham would have called the news media and submitted photos of his father’s naked body to the local newspaper, and the headlines would read…PREACHER FOUND DRUNK AND NAKED BY SON!”
To put it simply, do not EXPOSE them as Ham did in the story we just read. What Ham did was INDECENT! He went INTO Noah’s private place, his tent. He became aware of Noah’s failure then went OUTSIDE to expose the sin. Today the body of Christ has no qualms about INDECENTLY EXPOSING their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to all the world.
I recently came across a video that was posted on YouTube by a media/sound person of a church in Oklahoma. The video was of his pastor’s Sunday morning rant. The pastor was rebuking church members who were right there INSIDE the congregation. For whatever reason–maybe the pastor was discouraged, had little sleep the night before or just was not a nice person, it was a horrible thing to watch. The pastor had obviously crossed the proverbial line to even the most gracious observer’s standards. But the sound person’s posting it OUTSIDE on YouTube was one of the worst cases of uncovering a brother’s nakedness or as I like to call it, INDECENT EXPOSURE I have ever seen.
IF YOU ARE ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE TENT. If you did not have first hand knowledge, DO WHAT SHEM AND JAPHETH DID. Shem and Japheth were involuntarily notified of their father’s nakedness while they were OUTSIDE his tent. They had no desire to see or be acquainted with the “titillating” and “juicy” details so they walked in BACKWARDS and COVERED their father’s nakedness. As one Bible commentator said, “Notice the care of Shem and Japheth to cover their father’s shame. There is a mantle of love to be thrown over the faults of all. There is a “robe of reverence” to be thrown over the faults of parents and other superiors.”
What a contrast. Ham paraded his father’s sins in his own pride and self-righteousness. Whereas Shem and Japheth behaved with honorable humility! Just a thought, but when we make our comments on social media from OUTSIDE the “tent” of the struggling Christian leader, are we also walking in judgement, self-righteousness and pride? If we truly love deeply as our featured verse exhorts us to do, we must humbly cover our brothers and sisters in Christ, acknowledge our own struggles and refrain from judgement. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all were as humble as this famed country singer:
“I think it is just terrible and disgusting how everyone has treated Lance Armstrong, especially after what he achieved, winning seven Tour de France races while on drugs. When I was on drugs, I couldn’t even FIND my bike.” – Willie Nelson
RESTORE. If you have read this far and think by covering another’s sin, it means to condone or sweep it under the carpet, let me clarify. 1 Peter 4:8 is a partial quote from Proverbs 10:12 in which “cover” means to not harshly condemn or expose faults; but to forbearingly bear other’s burdens, forgiving and forgetting past offenses. Whether we are on the INSIDE or OUT SIDE, our motivation and goal should always be restoration and reconciliation. Exposing other’s sins and talking about them publicly is almost never an act of love! Galatians 6:1 says, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” (emphasis mine) Jesus preached a lot about forgiveness but He did convey that there are times when we are to address sin more directly WITH the goal of restoration and reconciliation. We are to go to the offending person alone and privately. We should deal with it INSIDE the relationship. If Ham would have covered his father during the drunken state and later addressed his concern that would have been honorable. There are times when the offender does not listen. Jesus explained THEN we are to take one or two others along. If they still refuse to listen, then tell it to the church. (Matthew 18:15-17) If you are on a church governing body and become aware of a leader’s SIN, there may be more to the process. (1 Timothy 5:17-20)
Some Last Words Of Exhortation
If we are on the OUTSIDE of the circumstance let us graciously refrain from perpetuating the shame of the leader involved. If we are on the INSIDE and have experienced the leader’s failure personally, let us approach the matter privately with love and our motivation always being restoration and reconciliation. I don’t know about you but James 2:13 “inspires” me to be gracious and merciful. “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Let us heed the words of our Savior, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity.” (Luke 6:37-38 MSG)
May we be gracious to others as you have been gracious to us. May we be your hands of mercy extended to the fallen as we help them up and not push them down. Help us not to sully your Name to a world that is watching our every move and listening to our every word. Let your love rule and reign in us. LH
Featured Photo: Ham Mocking Noah by Luini Bernardino (Pixelated)