Points to Ponder: Truth or Consequences

Points to Ponder
Truth or Consequences

Have you heard the myth, usually applied to our leaders, that private conduct has no effect on public performance? We like that idea when we want to excuse ourselves or someone we admire from the admonishment certain immoral, unethical, or at least questionable conduct deserves. We figure that what that person (or I, myself) do in private is no one's business and it has nothing to do with their role at work or as a leader in the home or in the community.
Several pastors including myself are preaching a series of sermons designed to address the crisis of teen pregnancy in Washington County. This county ranks #3 out of 23 counties and Baltimore City. It's a spiritual issue and as I reflect on all the influences that compel our teens to dabble in risky behavior, I thought of our public leaders. Does their conduct in private somehow influence the cultural standard their leadership lifts up - or lets down?
Consider in the time just before September 11, 2001 and then following: Our President had just been caught a few years before in an affair with an intern. Then the U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, and his heir apparent as well, were exposed as adulterers. "America's Mayor," who came to prominence because of his leadership on 9/11, had been seen with a woman, not his wife (now she is). Our governor at the time, also married his mistress. Recently, we had a U.S. Senator caught in a Minneapolis airport restroom allegedly soliciting sex. He's not sure he's guilty; whatever would get him out of trouble, he was ready to plea. No matter which way he ultimately decides to go, the original guilty plea or the recent claims that he's not guilty - he lied or is lying.
I recall watching a "Biography" program about the life of a prominent, now deceased, actor who was a big box office hero when I was a kid. In this portrayal of his life, it was shown how he worked constantly. He had affairs with actresses. His marriages were obviously compromised, then ruined. But in the end, the narrator capped off the story of this actor's life saying that he was a loving husband and a good father. How, I wondered?
Does the character of our political and cultural leaders influence the well-being, even the security, of our society? In ancient Israel, it did. Maybe it still does in our nation.
Their notorious enemies, the Philistines, attacked Israel, killing 4,000 in battle. The Israelites wondered why God allowed their defeat. (I Samuel 4:1-3). Eli, the high priest, had two sons who were corrupt and immoral. They were the leaders on hand. They turned to their religion.
"Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies." (I Samuel 4:3)
So the sons of Eli (Hophni and Phinehas) brought the ark into the battle. When all Israel saw it, they let out a shout so loud it shook the earth. The Philistines were initially scared and confused. They remembered the stories from centuries before when Moses led the Israelites through the Red. Sea. "Woe to us!" they said.
"Woe to us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be strong and conduct yourselves like men, you Philistines, that you do not become servants of the Hebrews, as they have been to you. Conduct yourselves like men, and fight!" (I Samuel 4:8-9)
The Philistines killed 30,000 Israelites and captured the ark. Eli's sons were killed.
Israel had been under their corrupt leadership. These priests, Hophni and Phinehas, engaged in immoral behavior (I Samuel 2:22) and also took more than their fair portion of the offerings (2:12-17), despising their position before the Lord.
The people relied on their religion, the ark, not a real relationship with God - to save them from their enemies. There was no prayer, no humble confession or inquiry of the Lord regarding the sin, which had made them vulnerable to destruction.
It should make us wonder whether the Lord will allow us to be vulnerable before our enemies because of the corruption of our leaders.
One NPR (National Public Radio) commentator reflected on how all of the typically reliable sources are lying to us. From the Olympic athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs, to business leaders who "cook the books" to puff up a favorable-looking financial statement, to religious leaders who claim to stand for the righteousness of God while denying certain portions of scripture which oppose the social agenda they want to pursue in the name of God. Where is the truth? Many will parade the facade of faith while they live a lie behind it. And they cannot blame God for the consequences, though they try it.
"The foolishness of a man twists his way. And his heart frets against the Lord." (Proverbs 19:3)
In the battle between Israel and the Philistines, we can ponder this: the power of those with faith in false gods can prevail over those who have a false faith in the real God. Woe to us if that's how the Lord has to get our attention.

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.