Dear “Disqualified” Christian,
If while following Jesus, you made a huge mistake, one of the big no-no’s (whatever that means), this one is for you.
From my experiences in counseling and ministry, I have looked over several ministerial applications for various positions and credentialing. There are blanks to fill about your life, marriage, and past. Most past mistakes are okay…as long as they happened before salvation. On one hand I get it. They want to make sure the person is serious about their faith and pursuing righteousness as a good and wholesome example to the people they are to serve.
But, there’s something that bothers me–that keeps me up at night to ponder. Should a person be considered disqualified from ministry, or feel as though they were never saved because of a heartbreaking mistake made after salvation? I get that these organizations are trying to make sure that the people they place in positions are qualified by scriptural standards. I agree with the belief that if we have Jesus in our lives that we should hold ourselves to a higher way of living. We want to protect believers from “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
I also get that we don’t stop being human at conversion, or while we are at seminary, or while we stand behind a pulpit. We fall short. Even with Christ in our lives. Even though we have everything necessary in Jesus to succeed by spiritual standards. But, what to do? What should be the response to “fallen Christians”?
“I’m really sorry you made that mistake, but you can’t contribute or lead with that in your past. It wouldn’t be a good example. People hold you to a higher standard. We’re afraid it might happen again…”
I know people have gotten responses like that. But it’s never set well with me. Mostly, because I know how imperfect the people that God chose throughout scripture were. They always had some sort of consequence for poor choices, and their role in His story might have changed. But, I’m not sure there is ever an instance in which a willing and repentant heart was “disqualified.”
Doing devotions this week, I was looking at some of Jesus’s last interactions with His disciples right before going to the cross. In Luke 22, Jesus’s conversation with Simon (Peter) gave me one of those “whoa” moments:
Well, everybody gets sifted by Satan, Peter. You should have been prepared and in the Word more. I’m sorry that you are going to make such a terrible choice. If you really loved me, you wouldn’t deny me. We can’t use you in leadership anymore, but here is a nice spot on the pew for you.
Oh wait…That’s not what Luke 22:31-33 says…. Here it is:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.
In Luke 22:31-33, Jesus tells Peter several important things. First, that he is going to be sifted by Satan. Second, that He has already interceded on his behalf. Third, that after he screws up and repents and turned toward Jesus again, he has a huge role in His story.
I deeply love, that Jesus not only points out that Peter will fail, but that the course of action is to repent and return to following Jesus, and then to strengthen others. He tells Peter before he even fails or repents that He isn’t finished with him. I wonder if Jesus hadn’t told Peter this, if Peter would have had the courage to come back to the faith after denying Christ…
Peter walked the earth with Jesus in His inner circle. If anyone should have been a “strong Christian” equipped to deal with the upcoming testing, Peter should have fit the bill.
So, “disqualified Christian” if Jesus were to sit down and chat with you, this is what I imagine he’d say:
Dear one, I have been interceding on your behalf that though you falter, your faith would not fail so that you can rise again. When you repent and turn your heart towards me, I have plans to use you for my glory. Let’s go forward together.
I pray that fellow believers would come alongside you and say, “I see that you have struggled and failed. I am interceding on your behalf that you would be strengthened, and rise above your past mistakes. What can I do to help you leave your past behind, and support you in spiritual growth? I promise that God isn’t finished with you yet.”
Don’t define yourself by your past. Let Jesus change your name. Simon repented, and Jesus reaffirmed him in ministry. Jesus transformed Simon (the reed) into Peter (the rock).
In dealing with the consequences of past choices, you may have to find a new venue to contribute to the Kingdom of God. You likely need a season of healing and reflection before diving in to serving others. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be used for His glory. Repent and rise. He’s not finished with you. Not by a long shot. You’re not defined by people, anyways. You are defined by Christ, and He calls you redeemed.