What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
It is not good enough to have an intellectual conviction about an important issue. Unless you act according to your conviction, your belief is useless. For instance, if I have a sincere and heartfelt conviction that wearing blue coloured clothing is wrong, then I would be a hypocrite if I didn't go through my wardrobe and throw out every item that even came close to the colour blue. My belief would have been useless if I hadn't done something about it.
This is why it cuts so deep for Christians whenever a great hero of the faith or a great Christian leader is found out to have ongoing and unrepentant moral failures. It shows hypocrisy at the deepest level. It shows a person who espouses their belief in God and encourages and leads people in these beliefs, but also shows a person who hasn't acted on those beliefs in their own life.
I'd like to note that no one is perfect and that all of us who have come to Christ came with our own sin and baggage. We received the forgiveness that Jesus provides… and ongoing forgiveness as needs be. It's not that Christian leaders are required to be perfect, to some unattainable standard that the rest of us don't live up to either, but rather that these people with major moral failings didn't do something about their problems. They didn't bring themselves to the Lord to deal with what was going on in their hearts and they didn't practice repentance, confessing their sin and turning away from it.
I'm not saying this as someone on the outside looking in, criticizing someone else for their failures. I know that life is hard. I know that your past and your sin have a way of creeping up on you and it's difficult and painful to overcome. I've struggled with my own emotional damage and subsequent addictions and faced into that pain to come into a much better place. I haven't fully arrived, but the process has brought peace, life, and joy regularly back into my life. I say these things because I'm convinced that our actions need to reflect our convictions. That no matter how much pain it costs us to go through, we need to align our lives and our actions towards what we say we believe.
This means that when I sin, when I screw up, I confess my sin and I turn away from it. I analyze what happened and put a plan in place to help me no go there again. I turn to trustworthy people in my life and share where I'm at, openly and honestly, and walk through my difficulties with them. If I'm struggling with behaviour that I know is wrong, I get to the bottom of it. I figure out why I'm struggling and bring my emotional damage to light so that it can be healed.
My marriage is a perfect example of this process at work. Neither my wife nor myself came into our marriage with a great set of relational tools. We were both emotionally broken in some areas and had no idea how broken. Our relationship reflected that brokenness. Instead of giving up and walking away from each other when it got difficult (and believe me, we've gone through many difficult times!) we dug into the pain, tried to figure out what was wrong, got outside help, and cried, prayed, and talked a lot. Our marriage didn't miraculously spring into being as a great and glorious thing… we worked hard at ourselves and at making it better so that now it is a beautiful, intimate, and safe space for both of us. We had a conviction that this is how marriage is supposed to be and we worked hard to align our actions to reflect that.
Does your life reflect the beliefs you hold? Do you believe in loving other people but in actuality criticize and despise them for the way they behave? Do you believe in honesty, but mislead and lie? Do you believe in encouragement, but your words flow out in criticism and contempt? It's okay to be flawed, but it's not okay to camp there. It's time we honestly evaluated where we are at and faced into some of these situations with genuine repentance so that our lives don't continue in these destructive habits. God is faithful to help and the church was designed to build up each other in these ways.
If ever you need help or someone to work these things through with, reach out. You can contact our church at firstname.lastname@example.org