I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
How could this prominent teacher, who had brought so many to Christ, abandon his faith?
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
How could that guy, who had conducted so many vital marriage and high school classes, have committed adultery?
Within our congregations, and even the broad spectrum of the “Christian” community, there are people who are considered “pillars” by virtue of their status, deeds, or popularity. They might be the individual who brought us to Christ, the preacher in our local church, or a widely respected speaker or author. Sometimes these pillar-people are dear friends or members of our own family.
Pillars all have something in common: they are human, just like you and me.
Live long enough, and you will have the unfortunate experience of watching pillars fall.
Architectural pillars are large, impressive stoneworks that support the roof and often add beauty to a structure. They seem so strong and immovable. As we know from looking at ancient ruins, pillars often outlast the roof they supported and the statues they surround.
We also know that pillars can fall, and that fall could be fatal to more than a few people.
Human pillars are much the same way. They seem so solid. They survive so much and stand so strong, yet their fall could be catastrophic to the faith of those around them.
What Should We Do When Pillars Shake?
“…When James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?””
– Galatians 3.9-14, ESV (emphasis mine)
There is one vital truth we ought to remember about fellow Christians, regardless of how prominent or authoritative they seem: They. Are. Human.
All humans who have ever lived on this earth (with one exception) are fallible. We grow old. We get tired. We err.
When pillars seem to shake a bit, don’t just stand there with your mouth hanging open. Ask for God’s guidance and reinforce that pillar. Paul recognized the strength and prominence of Peter, but when Peter behaved like a hypocrite, he called him out! Was Paul’s goal to make Peter look like a fool? Absolutely not. Paul was afraid for Peter, for Barnabas, and for the fragile faith of the new Gentile Christians. Paul knew that Peter was an influencer. If an influencer is doing wrong, they need to be corrected before they influence everyone right off the cliff! Paul stopped that pillar from shaking.
In the same book, Paul writes, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6.1) When pillars shake, ground yourself in prayer and work on restoring the pillar to full strength.
How Should We Respond When Pillars Fall?
When it happens, the crash reverberates. One cannot be in the vicinity and ignore it.
Our initial reaction is dismay and discouragement. We might think…
- Maybe this faith isn’t as solid as I thought it would be
- If this strong person fell, how will I be able to keep from falling?
First, commit this to memory: Pillars are not the foundation.
The foundation of our faith is Jesus. We believe that He is the Son of God who came to earth as a man, laid down His life for our sins, and has conquered death. He is the chief cornerstone. Plant your feet firmly on His foundation, not on pillars!
- David—the man after God’s own heart—made some truly messy mistakes.
- Abraham lied to Abimelech (twice!!).
- Moses struck the rock in anger.
- Elijah wanted to die in his discouragement.
These are the pillars of the Old Testament, y’all! Can you believe how many times they blew it?!
They are witnesses of what fallible man can do through persistent faith in God. They testify to God’s great faithfulness, forgiveness, and mercy. They demonstrate how, through the power of God, we can run this race with endurance. If we fall down, we have but to reach for the Lord and He will lift us back up. Be inspired by the pillars who can no longer be knocked down. They overcame by trusting in the power of God instead of their own strength.
When pillars fall, hold fast to The Rock.
“I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3.11-12, ESV)