In Super Bowl III, the Baltimore Colts were heavily favored over what the “experts” viewed as the outmanned and outgunned New York Jets. On the field, however, the game still had to be played. Despite all the hype about the superior strengths of the Colts, the Jets prevailed, 16-7. To this day it remains one of the most stunning upsets in National Football League history.
In the 30 plus years since Super Bowl III, analysts have scrutinized the game and come away with an almost universal evaluation of the upset— the Colts overestimated themselves and underestimated their opponent. They lost because they thought they were invincible. They failed because they thought they were beyond failure.
Life off the playing field is also marked by unexpected failure. In many cases the results are far more serious than losing an athletic contest.
The news media remind us almost daily of public scandals not only in government and business but also in the church. The reports are not limited to any one denomination. They occur broadly across Christendom and remind us that followers of Christ are not immune to personal failure, bad judgment, or a betrayal of public trust. Just as important, the stories that surface in the public press are only the tip of the iceberg. Followers of Christ are as vulnerable as anyone else to a wide spectrum of mental, emotional, and behavioral problems.
Cover-up and denial do not make a problem go away. Problems that are swept under the rug only multiply the eventual damage. Avoidance or minimization of the facts only assures that when the problem does surface, more people will be hurt and disillusioned by behavior that has been allowed to go on without timely response.
When spiritual leaders or members of their congregation are guilty of financial misconduct, marital unfaithfulness, dishonesty, or cover-up, they have an influence that goes far beyond themselves. When they fall, they bring others down with them. Those who have looked to them for guidance often stumble and lose their own way. They harm everyone in their circle of influence. They compromise the credibility of the ministry they represent. And worst of all, they damage the reputation of Christ Himself.