Reflections on Scandal

Reflections on Scandal
Rev. Tony Cooke

What happens when scandal hits the church?  The following is not meant to be judgmental or condemning of any individual, but is simply meant to remind us of the seriousness of our Christian witness—especially for those in positions of leadership and responsibility in the church. 

I recently recalled the very sobering story of David’s sin and the resulting fallout.  We know that David received forgiveness (2 Sam. 12:13), and thank God for that.  If it weren’t for the mercy of God, where would any of us be?  Even though Nathan pronounced God’s forgiveness toward David, there were also some very strong consequences articulated.  Let’s look at three of them:

1. Nathan said, “The sword shall never depart from your house” (2 Sam. 12:10).  That’s sobering!  It’s important to understand that spiritual forgiveness doesn’t immediately eradicate all of the consequences of our actions.  If I go out and rob a bank tomorrow, I believe God would forgive me, but the courts probably would not.  I would embarrass my family and destroy the trust that people have placed in me.  Trust is the currency of ministry, and without credibility, our ability to influence lives is greatly diminished.  Yes, David received forgiveness, but the ramifications he experienced socially, relationally, and politically following his sin were massive, horrific, and long-term.

2. God did not look at David’s sin as a mere yielding to temptation; it was much deeper than that in God’s eyes.  In reference to David’s act of disobedience, God said, “…you have despised me…” (2 Sam. 12:10).  God takes our obedience (and our disobedience) very seriously and very personally.  Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  God is never impressed with our words if our actions are wrong. 1 John 2:4 states, “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  Before there was a Great Commission, there was a Great Commandment, and that involves loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Real love for God produces obedience to Him.

3. Another very sobering statement is, “…by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme…” (2 Sam. 12:14).  We know that the Gospel is true whether a particular minister lives right or not, but society as a whole tends to judge the message by the messenger.  When Paul spoke of those who preach one thing and live another (Romans 2:21-24), he ended those remarks with: “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,”

Beginning in Matthew 18:6, Jesus begins to talk about “offenses,” and he addresses the very serious consequences of offending “one of these little ones.”  The words (used six times in these few verses) translated “offend” and “offense” are “skandalizo” and “scandaloon” in the Greek.  This is where we get our English word, “scandal.”

Scandalous behavior by Christians brings offense and causes people to stumble.  It disheartens and confuses baby Christians, alienates those who may have been considering Christianity, and gives great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.

Again, what I am writing is not meant to project condemnation toward anyone who has missed it.  We are to be proponents of mercy and restoration (Galatians 6:1, James 5:19-20).  I am simply summarizing what was a stark reminder to me of the seriousness of our calling and the mandate that we must embrace regarding godly living if we are to preach the gospel.  This is not a time to rise up in judgment against others; it is a time to examine our own hearts in godly fear.

Warnings against sin go way back.  When Cain was angry and jealous toward Abel, God said, “You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master” (Gen. 4:7, NLT)

Even Paul, as spiritually developed as he was, didn’t trust his flesh.  He said, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).  Spurgeon’s words also ring true yet today: “Whatever call a man may pretend to have, if he has not been called to holiness, he certainly has not been called to the ministry.”

Someone described the deceptive and destructive power of sin this way: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go! Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay! Sin will cost you more than you want to pay!



I believe our destinies are primarily formed, not by the circumstances we encounter, but by the choices we make.  Our character and future are shaped, for the most part, by what we say “no” to, and what we say “yes” to.


Abraham said “NO” to Sodom’s riches, and “YES” to God’s promises.

Joseph said “NO” to Potiphar’s wife, and “YES” to faithful service.

Moses said “NO to the treasures of Egypt, and “YES” to a heavenly assignment.

Elisha said “NO” to Naaman’s silver, and “YES” to selfless integrity.

Daniel said “NO” to the king’s delicacies, and “YES” to godly consecration.

Nehemiah said “NO” to compromising negotiations, and “YES” to unwavering persistence.

Paul said “NO” to being burdensome to the churches, and “YES” to sacrificial love.

Jesus said “NO” to comfort, and “YES” to the cross.


Jesus expected us to have a strong “yes” and a clear “no.”  Both He and James said, “…let your ‘Yes ‘ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’  If we find ourselves torn or tempted when it comes to doing the right thing, it’s important that we come back to our core values and remind ourselves of who God has called us to be.  Roy Disney said, “It’s not hard to make to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

When you stop and think about it, even Christmas is a “no” and “yes” proposition.  In the manger, God was saying “no” to our hopelessness, our abandonment, our demise, and our destruction.  He was saying “yes” to our hope, our rescue, our reconciliation, and our resurrection.  Thank God that He said “yes” clearly and unmistakably!