Once again, we are hit with the exposure of a major Christian leader who has engaged for decades in deeply egregious and sinful behavior, abusing his power and spiritual authority over those who trusted him. The ripples of pain are being felt throughout the world. By his victims. By other victims of similar abuse. By those who trusted him. By those whose spiritual lives were profoundly affected by the truth of the Gospel that he communicated with clarity, wisdom, and beauty. By those who will walk away from that faith because of his betrayal. And by his wife and children.
And I find myself asking: where were his friends? Where were the people who had deep access into his interior world? Where were those who “watched and prayed” as he engaged in life and ministry?
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.” … Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.
–Matthew 14:32-34, 37-40a; NIV
Just as Jesus was entering His most agonizing hours, He found himself alone. His friends were too sleepy to watch over Him and keep Him company.
We are all vulnerable. We fall asleep and do not watch and pray. We fall into temptation because our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. We need each other. We need our friends to push into the hard questions. To watch over us, as a watchman on the wall watch over the city when darkness falls. And to help foil the schemes of the devil against us. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV, emphasis added) says,
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Watching over others, asking hard questions about their souls, and praying for them is an act of friendship. Let us help each other up. Let us help each other keep from being overpowered. Let us stay vigilant over each other’s lives.
ACTION: Who is “watching and praying” for you as you engage in your “Garden of Gethsemane” experiences? When you are struggling? When you are suffering? Who is asking you the hard questions about your heart and soul? Who is loving you well in that way? And to whom are you offering that same kind of friendship. Beloved, let us love one another.