A couple of events caused me to ask this question recently. First, I attended a conference where several flawed men were honored. This was even acknowledged immediately after the presentation. Next, I have been studying Christian history intensely over the past few months. Many men of the past who are honored probably wouldn’t receive an invitation to preach at my church if they ministered in this age. Most leaders have had imperfections and faults, but we generally remember them based on their embrace of certain truths. So, does God honor flawed men?
Unequivocally, the answer is yes.
He even inducts them into the “hall of faith” and presumably showers them with eternal rewards. How do I know? Hebrews 11 mentions several examples of individuals who personify living by faith. There’s Noah who blighted his testimony forever with drunkenness. Next in the list is a habitual liar (Abraham). Jacob is a man who is perhaps better known for his scheming than his faith in God. Yet the worship offered at the end of his life draws God’s commendation. An angry man who committed murder is lifted up (Moses). Gideon temporarily was an idolater. David, a man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer and murderer. Many of these men had multiple wives.
If your church was going to make a hall of faith, would you like to see murderers, adulterers, and idolaters lifted up as heroes to your congregation? What does this example mean for us today?
1. It does not mean pastors who violate the qualifications in Scripture should be allowed to remain in their office.
OT heroes do not equal NT pastors. NT believers have clear guidelines in order to qualify for the office of pastor. Pastors who violate these make themselves ineligible for the position.
2. It does not mean unrepentant sinners should be embraced and honored.
The individuals mentioned in Hebrews 11 did not persist in rebellion and unbelief. Members of the church who persist in sin are to be confronted and removed from fellowship; embracing the sinner runs contrary to God’s plan (1 Cor. 5).
3. It does mean God uses imperfect saints.
The imperfections of leaders will not cause everyone to embrace their faults. Great failures do not negate great faith. The frailty of men actually reveals the glory and majesty of Christ (1 Cor. 1:26-31). We must not be afraid to hold flawed men up as examples to others of great faith and victory.
4. It does mean we should deal graciously with imperfect saints.
When rejoicing over the triumphs of others and not their failures, we demonstrate love (1 Cor. 13:6) and God’s gracious spirit (Hebrews 11). The Holy Spirit didn’t even feel the need to qualify every statement about these flawed men with disclaimers about their failures.
None of this is to say God does not recognize and judge sin – ask the saints of Hebrews 11 and they will heartily agree that God is holy and despises sin. However, these truths do challenge my thinking.
I’d like to have your assistance. Could you comment on this article to help refine my thinking? Is there something obvious that I’m missing? What additional lessons can we take from God honoring flawed men? What warnings would you give?