Having been away from blogging a while, finishing my Masters degree, I did not intend to write this, but on perusing fellow bloggers, I came across a discussion on Mike Warnke. I’ve no idea who Warnke is, or what happened beyond the fact that he had a ministry but had been caught doing something he shouldn’t have. I’ll NOT look it up – I don’t believe I’d gain much from reading about a fellow believer’s fall from grace! I began a reply to my fellow blogger, but it became fairly large, so…
There ARE lessons to be learned…
About 30 years ago, I was involved in Christian rock bands locally, AND had a job at the ‘largest Christian bookstore in Europe’, in my native Belfast. While there, our manager ordered in 144,000 copies (I had to unload the 3 crated pallets!), on vinyl and cassette, of 18 albums recorded by a then-unknown-outside-the-US singer/preacher, Jimmy Swaggart. Our boss played these teeth-grinding, doleful wailing dirges 24/7, saying to every customer who came in; “have you heard this new singer from the States? He’s just maaarrrvelous!”
Once he was gone on his tea break, we’d fight to see who could be first to take out the cassette and lose it behind another shelf, and put on some decent music, but the boss would return, and take a new cassette from the shelf stacks…
And so I came to HATE Swaggart; I’d even hear those songs in my head as I tried to drift off to sleep at night!! Shortly after this, on the back of his increasing fame, he appeared on some Christian breakfast shows, with a new agenda; warning people about the evils of rock music (being the cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis, I suppose he had first hand experience lol), but he started showing albums by Christian rock bands and stating that they were not to be listened to, as the musicians on these albums “were not Christians”! Now… salvation is a sacred thing; it is between the saviour and the sinner, NOBODY ELSE! I have NO right to call anyone else’s salvation into question. I may look for signs of spiritual fruit in them – love, joy, peace, kindness, etc. but their TRUE relationship with God is a secret thing that will only be revealed at the end. Note Matt.7:21-23!
THEN I started to feel sorry for Swaggart. I told friends that he’d need to watch out, for God would judge him for being so judgmental with others. And a few years later…? Then people I knew who loved his music and preaching suddenly wanted to throw his albums in the bin and mention him no more. I actually defended him! I said that if his music was SO good before (for these people with no real taste in music LOL), what had changed? He had fallen from grace, yes! Was it not possible to see his music from the heart of a man who struggled with his own failings?
Some years later, I was on my way into a rugby ground in Belfast for a Meatloaf concert, ably supported by Status Quo. A man was with friends giving out tracts, and handed me one. I handed it back with a smile and said “it’s OK, brother, I’m saved!” He smiled at me briefly. VERY briefly, then with utter indignation he snapped “well, what are you going in there for?” and stormed off. I just laughed, but I realised later that I really should have warned him not to fall into the same trap that Swaggart had done. He was in need of a friendly and loving, but serious rebuke lest he fall in the same way!
Today I am involved in church worship music, and the same thing happens: a song can be hailed as a brilliant piece of moving spirituality, but then we all hear the shocking news – the guy that wrote and sung that song has turned out to be a liar, a charlatan, a blatant flagrant sinner, false in his ways, a charred testimony…. “Oh, we can’t sing that song now!”
To which I reply;
“Well, point taken. We shouldn’t sing it…. So that means the Psalms are out then, too?”
“The Psalms? Weren’t most of them written by a man who had an affair with a married woman, got her pregnant, and then when he couldn’t cover his tracks, arranged to have the husband, an honourable man, ‘killed in battle’?”
Usually met with splutters, stutters, or silence. Sometimes met with understanding and contrition, and a lesson learnt: if God chooses to use weak vessels for his own glory, it is actually our very weakness that glorifies him all the more (2Cor.12:9-10).
His grace is as boundless as an eternal ocean.
Grace be with you.