When a Gifted Person Falls
My purpose here is not to address the question of whether those who have fallen should be restored to ministry. Rather, I want to speak to those who are suspicious of prophetic ministry because of the failure of one of its more gifted individuals. When someone in ministry falls, we often respond in one of two ways. Some experience excessive bitterness, refuse to forgive, and vow never to trust religious leaders again. Others are tempted to apply what I call "unsanctified mercy" and insist on the premature restoration of the one who has sinned. Both of these options are understandable but wrong. We should neither become cynical of the ministry nor give way to unholy sympathy. There is a better, biblical balance.
Perhaps it would be best if I simply set forth three key principles that I believe ought to govern how we think and respond when a trusted, beloved brother or sister in the faith falls.
First, it is only natural that we feel both appreciation and embarrassment. Those whose lives have been positively impacted by someone's ministry should continue to affirm it and resist any temptation to think it was spurious or that its benefits are now somehow tainted or soiled. On the other hand, there is good reason to feel a sense of shame for what occurred, for such events give cause to the world to mock the gospel we proclaim and hold dear.
Second, scandalous sin in a person's life does not necessarily invalidate what was believed to have been beneficial in their ministry. It may, but it need not. Certainly the case of someone like Judas Iscariot must be considered. The horrid nature of his betrayal of Jesus exposed the hypocritical and false commitment of his earlier life and "friendship" with our Lord. But others in the Bible have fallen without calling into question the spiritual authenticity of their faith or ministry. One thinks immediately of Samson, David, Peter, and Mark, just to mention a few more prominent cases. Samson's immoral tryst with Delilah, David's adultery with Bathsheba and complicity in the murder of Uriah, Peter's cowardly, public denial of Jesus, and Mark's abandonment of the apostle Paul, did not corrupt the fruit of their labors.
Neither should we think that someone's fall necessarily casts a shadow on the reality of his/her prophetic ministry in the years preceding the problem. We may still hold to our conviction that the individual was and is a Christian who deeply loves the Lord Jesus Christ and earnestly desires to honor his savior. We believe his/her prophetic gift was and is genuine. This is not to minimize the gravity of sin. It is simply to say that sin does not necessarily invalidate the reality of faith. If the person were unrepentant about his/her fall and resistant to discipline, a different conclusion might be warranted. But what if he/she has fully acknowledged the failure and has taken responsibility for it? What if he/she has submitted to spiritual authority and has complied with the requirements for his restoration?
Third, moral failure does not mean that the prophetic promises given through this person are invalid. Such prophecies must be judged and weighed as the Scriptures instruct. Whether or not they are fulfilled is unrelated to the fact that the one who spoke them sinned subsequent to their delivery. The psalms that King David wrote prior to his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba did not suddenly lose their value or cease to be edifying to the people of God.