After conceding having an affair on his wife, Pastor John Gray of the Relentless Church, took to the pulpit to defend himself. In an article by Paul Mason published in the Empowering Everyday Women (EEW) Magazine, Gray in a sermon titled “Graveyard Shift states” I saw people—bless their hearts—online talking about, Pastor John talked about suicide. I didn’t say that I went and got a gun. I didn’t say I bought pills. I said the enemy put thoughts in my mind, and people tried to make that like I was out of my mind…“And you know what’s funny? It wasn’t devils that made me feel that way; it was people.” Gray went on to quote scriptures from Genesis and Proverbs as a defensive response to those who chose to speak out about his situation. In both quotes, Gray misappropriates scripture towards those he sees as not being faithful Christians for not concealing the matter. While I am all for keeping home business in the home, this is not one of those moments.
Gray raised his profile from lowly preacher to mid-level celebrity after co-starring on the daytime television talk show “The Preachers” alongside Dr. E. Dewey Smith, Dr. Jamal Bryant, and Orrick Quick. From there he and his wife have starred in their own reality television series on the OWN network. It was these and other church platforms that propelled him into the national spotlight and brought the added scrutiny of his public and private life. Going from preacher to pop culture shifted the culpability of his actions to full public commentary. This is not to say that he is entitled to such, but it comes with the territory (and should I ever get to the level that he is I should expect the same).
Scripture presents us with case scenarios of how we should deal with individuals who have failed because of public or private sin of some kind. While the Old Testament provides plenty of case studies in the human frailty of highly gifted persons, the New Testament provides better insight because Jesus of Nazareth and Paul the Apostle both had personal interactions with those people. In John 4, Jesus was brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery to which he responded to her accusers by writing something in the sand and giving the famous quote “he who is without sin cast the first stone.” He later meets a single Samaritan woman at a local well, engages her in conversation, and after telling her of her past and current relationship status, helps empower her to become an evangelist on his behalf. It appears that Jesus was more concerned about the victim being oppressed than those who would call out the cause of their oppression.
Apostle Paul seemingly has a different approach. In his first response letter to the church of Corinth, he directly addresses an issue of sexual immorality and stated that “although absent in body but present in spirit, I have already judged him who has committed this as though I were present” (I Corinthians 5:3). Paul had proclaimed appropriate condemnation and punishment for the individual even though he was not physically present to do so. He had written that because the Corinthian church had more pride in themselves they had chosen to not adequately address the direct inflammation of sin that had become a part of their church body. Paul later writes in Galatians that individual believers should be so interconnected that whenever one sees another brother or sister overtaken in any trespasses that we should reach out to that person regarding our own sensitivity and culpability to sin in like manner (Galatians 5:25-26, 6:1-10).
This dichotomy presented by Paul is what we see being played out in the contemporary church. There are those who would love to call judgment and justice for the moral failures of church leaders and there are those who will not be so quick to act or condemn because they are aware of their own human frailty. We live in an age where social media intrudes on the private lives of everyone. Social media has a way of complicating the nuances of personal and public interactions. Choosing to conceal or reveal is up to individual choice. We all know someone in church leadership who has had a moral failure. We can be discreet in addressing it to those we care, or we can be proud and self-righteous in addressing it. While both can be seemingly done in love, one leads to self-fulfillment, and the other leads to repentance for all.