I was about four years into my ministry when I developed one of the most important personal and ministry axioms of my life. Simply stated it is this:
Never sacrifice people on the altar of principle. Instead, find a way for grace to win.
Here’s how it all came down…
Unfortunately, a couple in our church, after a long struggle, got a divorce. Like so many, they had hidden their struggles well and the news of their divorce was a surprise to us all. To complicate things, they played an important role in church—serving in leadership.
One of them, not only left their family, they left the church. However, the innocent party chose to remain in the church. I’ll never forget someone asking me, “What are you going to do about ‘so and so’? I was stumped. “What do you mean?”, I asked. They replied, “Are you going to remove them from their position in the church?” I responded, “Why would I do that?” They replied, “Because they are divorced.” I replied, “But they are the innocent party, they haven’t done anything to disqualify them from serving.” And the person replied, “But it is the principle of the thing.”
That’s when I had to make a choice and I chose to not sacrifice this, already hurting, member of my church on the altar of principle. Instead, I extended grace. While I took some heat for it, I don’t regret it. That person is still very involved in church and has since remarried and they are both serving God faithfully.
Now please understand, I do not celebrate or, in most cases, encourage divorce. Matter of fact, like God (Malachi 2:16), I hate divorce and what it does to families and our society. But life happens and sometimes it’s ugly and choices have to be made. And I am so thankful I learned early on that, when making choices about those ugly situations, if I am to err, I want to err on the side of finding a way for grace to win.
And truth be known, I’ve erred. There are people who will take advantage of grace. But that’s their problem, not mine. I’ve never yet regretted choosing people over principle.
The ONE THING for today: When choosing between people or the principle of the thing, choose people. Or put another way, never let the situation mean more than the relationship.