I wrote my previous post about Ted Haggard’s repentance tour, and my impressions after spending two afternoons with him. I know that the issues involved when a leader falls are complicated.
- Not everybody who believes in the possibility of restoration to ministry is a lenient, sin-promoting, wishy-washy antinomian.
- Not everybody who believes that one big sin disqualifies you from ministry for life, is a heartless, judgmental, legalistic, grace-hating Pharisee.
You can find good-hearted Jesus-followers on both side of this divide. You can also find immature people who have not thought through the issues from a biblical perspective, on both sides of this divide.
My question today is simple:
Which does more harm to the body of Christ and its mission in the world…
A. A leader who falls?
B. A church that perpetuates his/her condemnation?
[Note: I am talking about the church at large, NOT New Life, for whose leaders I have great respect and compassion. By perpetuating condemnation, I mean the spirit of rejection, hostility, and unforgiveness. Just because you believe in consequences for his sin doesn’t necessarily mean you perpetuate his condemnation.. You can forgive and love a fallen sinner without restoring his leadership. I do not have enough facts on hand to form an opinion about Ted’s future ministry, nor is that my place… I do have an opinion about his future as brother in the family of God.]
Is the world more turned off by our hypocrisy OR our judgmentalism?
The same secular culture that criticizes the church for being judgmental and unforgiving also criticizes the church for forgiving and lifting the judgment. The body of Christ has to walk a narrow line… uphold biblical values while simultaneously forgiving and embracing those who break them.
What I’m saying is this: in the eyes of the world, we can’t win. The world is not, never has been, and never will be a friend of the Gospel.
The same message that lifts us up, first brings us down. We are all — every one of us — way closer to Ted Haggard, morally speaking, than to Jesus. I think that’s the truth I felt deeply when I sat with Ted. And that’s the conviction of sin that any person moving toward the gospel inevitably feels… and most often resents.
So, should we give up our testimony? No. But neither should we let the world’s opinion shape our response.
Scripture is our guide, and Jesus is our model. He called the unrepentant, self-justifying Pharisees hypocrites, and nailed them with “Woes.” He embraced the heart-broken, self-condemning sinners, and showered them with grace. Even when the sinner was loathed by the popular culture, like Zaccheus. Or Ted Haggard.
So, I ask again, from a missional standpoint… from the standpoint of our testimony in the world… which is worse: the immorality that brought Ted’s fall, or the bitterness that resists his redemption?
“Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” Galatians 6:1, NLT.
May I lovingly, respectfully suggest that if we’re going to err, we should err on the side of grace? Might I directly assert that it has been the church’s resistance to grace for the last 2,000 years that has turned off more people to the Jesus than anything else?
Legalism is killing the church.
I believe in heaven. The struggles with the flesh will then be over. Until then, we never stop needing God’s amazing grace. To those of us who have been gripped by grace, that is wonderful news. For those who have kept God and his grace at arm’s length, it is terrible news.
Thank you, Dear Father, for loving and saving a wretch like me. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for Calvary. Thank you for the Old Rugged Cross. Thank you for amazing grace. Thank you for a pardon, full and free. Thank you for so great a salvation. Thank you for mercy, seventy times seven. Thank you for embracing prodigals. Thank you for being you.
“Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22, 23, NKJV.