On March 7, 2016, Maria Sharapova announced that she had failed a drugs test. She had been tested positive for Meldonium, which is designed to help with the flow of blood to increase endurance. She was dropped by certain sponsors, the media asked questions and made their own judgements.
On 28 April, 2016, it was revealed that former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone had made anti-Semitic remarks. He was suspended from the Labour party, the media asked questions and made their own judgements.
We live in a time where it’s only a matter of time before another leader, public figure or organisation becomes the object of scorn. Whether it’s a sportsperson, a politician or anyone with any form of authority, scandals hit the front pages almost daily.
So how do we, as Christians, respond when a public figure, a leader or anyone with authority gets caught up in a scandal?
Firstly, don’t be surprised. It can be easy to think, ‘Surely not them. They would never do that!’ It can be them, and they can do it. Being in a position of leadership does not automatically remove the sinful nature that’s within all of us.
Secondly, call things wrong if they are wrong. We certainly have a duty to call wrong things wrong. But do so without condemning the person to your wrath. Rather than getting caught up in outrage and disgust, we have the chance to seek to restore people, and to show love, mercy and forgiveness.
It’s so easy to jump on the bandwagon of outrage and condemnation. It is much harder to seek forgiveness and restoration.
I’m sure there are a number of reasons why seeking forgiveness and restoration is a good thing to do, but I want to focus on just one – namely, we are hypocrites.
Being in the public spotlight means that any error will be magnified. Yet for those of us who aren’t in the public spotlight, our errors are hidden and so we feel safe to condemn public figures. Yet we are also worthy of the same condemnation! I have let people down, I’ve made mistakes in positions of leadership, I’ve got things wrong, I’ve been greedy and I’ve been selfish. I am a hypocrite. For anyone reading this to claim they’ve been innocent in all of those areas is hypocritical.
We should seek forgiveness and restoration of public figures because we are in desperate need of it as well. We cannot possibly condemn a public figure whilst being blameless ourselves. We are all hypocrites, and we need to be aware of that.
So when we declare something to be wrong in the next scandal to appear in the news, don’t condemn the person; don’t be outraged. We cannot expect leaders to be perfect. They are hypocrites just like you and me. They just happen to be in the public eye and we would continue to struggle with the same hypocrisy were we in their shoes.
Lastly, do pray for anyone in authority. It seems like journalists are simply waiting for the next public figure to fall from grace. So let us pray, as we listen to what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (New International Version)
We are all hypocrites, leaders included. So pray for them. Pray that role models will be good role models. Pray that trusted organisations will continue to be trusted organisations that seek the good of the public. Pray that politicians will be full of integrity. The unchanging, perfect word of God says it is good to pray for them. So pray.
We need our leaders. We need our role models. But they will fail, so do pray for them.