I came across this true story the other day which struck a salutary chord with me... and might also with you. My summary of it is as follows...
A church Elder was on a business trip and called into a restaurant for his evening meal. As he sat, waiting to be served, he looked across the dining room and to his surprise he saw his Pastor. Yet, what was the man doing 300 miles from home? He was puzzled. But as he made his way across the room to greet him he suddenly froze in his tracks. Through the dimly lit room he realised to his horror that this godly Pastor was holding the hand of a very attractive lady... who was not his wife! Instead of confronting the man he did what I would probably have done in the same situation... he phoned his wife. They agreed that as an Elder he had a leadership responsibility to the members of the Fellowship and that a special church meeting ought to be held... and sooner rather than later!
Well, the news spread like wildfire around the small town. A 'concerned' friend informed the Pastor's wife and so, sadly, it was no real surprise that her husband returned to a full-blown scandal. Of course he protested his innocence, but then 'there's no smoke without fire' and 'actions speak louder than words.'
Within a matter of days a special meeting of members was held and, understandably, the church building was packed. In fact, the atmosphere was that of an execution rather than a meeting of God's people, anxious to offer care and concern for a dearly loved Pastor whose personal life had obviously gone array.
All eyes were on this man and his family as they came in, so much so that hardly anyone noticed the arrival of the lady whose hand he had been holding in the restaurant.
A hush fell upon the assembly as the Pastor stepped into his pulpit. He stood up to speak... but instead of a public confession and apology he said...
'I have come to tender my resignation. My family is deeply wounded, and my reputation soiled.
In choosing to believe the worst, you have done things that cannot be undone.'
He then stepped down to the front row and took the hand of the lady who was at the centre of such sordid circumstances. And to the consternation of all present said...
'I'd like to introduce you to my younger sister. She is the woman who was in the restaurant with me.
Her husband had just left her, and I drove 300 miles to bring her comfort.'
With that, he and his family walked out past a stunned congregation. And although many pled with the Pastor to stay, he reluctantly, yet resolutely refused. Picking up a pillow he tore it open ad shook the feathers into the wind saying...
'If you can find and return all these feathers, and if every word of gossip can be returned
to your mouths unsaid, then things can be made right again.'
A sad and sorry story... but let the Lord have the final word in this so cautionary a tale...
'Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.'