Pastor Hayes a man in his middle forties, was well-loved by his congregation, and faithful to God and to his family. He enjoyed a successful ministry in an exuberantly vital, growing church. Just when everything seemed to be going well, a cloud came over this man and his ministry.
Rumors circulated through the church that Pastor Hayes was guilty of moral misconduct. He had been seen at the home of Miss Morrow, a school teacher, just a few weeks before she resigned for "personal reasons" and moved to another city. Apparently someone in the church put two and two together-and came up with five.
Pastor Hayes was innocent, but the stain of the alleged scandal could not be erased. The rumors followed Pastor Hayes for years, seriously hampering his effectiveness as a pastor. It was difficult for him to endure the rejection, mistreatment, and misunderstanding caused by the false rumors. But it was even more difficult for him to witness the toll of these events on his wife and on his teenaged son.
It was ten years later-after his son graduated from college-that Pastor Hayes learned how the hurtful rumors began. One night a man the pastor had not seen for years appeared at his door. "Brother McLean!" said Pastor Hayes in surprise. "I haven’t seen you in..."
"Eight years," McLean supplied. "It’s been eight years since I left the church." McLean had been an elder in the church, but left a few months after his term expired. Pastor Hayes studied McLean’s features. He looked older, and something was clearly troubling him. "Please come in," the pastor invited warmly.
"No," McLean answered quickly, "I only have a few minutes to talk. I just had to tell you-I was the one responsible." "What? I don’t...."
"The story about you and Miss Morrow," McLean interrupted. "I was the one who started it all."
"You!" Pastor Hayes’ hands and voice trembled as old emotions flooded back. "But why? You knew I was innocent, didn’t you? Miss Morrow left town to care for her dying father. She called me to her house the day she learned of her father’s cancer. I went there to pray with her. How could you twist that into...."
"I know! I know!" Tears began to fill the other man’s eyes. "I was twisted, Pastor I twisted with jealousy! You see, before you came, I was a leader in this church. The previous pastor asked my advice on everything. People looked up to me. The programs I was involved in were flourishing.
"But when you came, ...
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