Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mistakes, Forgiveness and Ted Haggard

I remember the day I first heard about Ted Haggard's fall from grace. The accusations of sexual immorality and drug use were everywhere as the media celebrated the demise of yet another one of those moralist Christians who spend their time condemning everyone publicly for the very acts they do in secret. 

The church wasn't any better. I remember overhearing a conversation between some people who were shaking their heads at Ted. They were disappointed with him, but they also were categorizing his sin in the "worse of the worse" column. One gentleman, said "If he was going to do this at least it could have been with a woman!" Funny how the church is more willing to gloss over some sins more than others.

I knew little about Ted Haggard before his troubles and still know very little about him. I gave up on following the stories of fallen heroes, Christian or otherwise, since I realized long ago that we are all capable of making the very same mistakes.We think we are somehow immune from "it" happening to us and we go our merry way in life until one day we realize we are in a real mess. And often it's a mess that we have made, but are left wondering how we ever got there. 

An article in Leadership was brought to my attention this morning about Ted Haggard. This time I read it and I am glad I did. It is by Michael Cheshire a pastor in Colorado who began a friendship with Ted Haggard and has some good insight on forgiveness. Here is part of what he says. 
A while back I was having a business lunch at a sports bar in the Denver area with a close atheist friend. He's a great guy and a very deep thinker. During lunch, he pointed at the large TV screen on the wall. It was set to a channel recapping Ted's fall. He pointed his finger at the HD and said, "That is the reason I will not become a Christian. Many of the things you say make sense, Mike, but that's what keeps me away."
It was well after the story had died down, so I had to study the screen to see what my friend was talking about. I assumed he was referring to Ted's hypocrisy. "Hey man, not all of us do things like that," I responded. He laughed and said, "Michael, you just proved my point. See, that guy said sorry a long time ago. Even his wife and kids stayed and forgave him, but all you Christians still seem to hate him. You guys can't forgive him and let him back into your good graces. Every time you talk to me about God, you explain that he will take me as I am. You say he forgives all my failures and will restore my hope, and as long as I stay outside the church, you say God wants to forgive me. But that guy failed while he was one of you, and most of you are still vicious to him." Then he uttered words that left me reeling: "You Christians eat your own. Always have. Always will."
had a hard time understanding why we as Christians really needed Ted to crawl on the altar of church discipline and die. We needed a clean break. He needed to do the noble thing and walk away from the church. He needed to protect our image. When Ted crawled off that altar and into the arms of a forgiving God, we chose to kill him with our disdain.

Cheshire hits the nail on the head. As the church we often talk about forgiveness, but we really don't practice it in the way that we claim. I suspect that we could all stand to remember Jesus' parable on the unforgiving servant  in Matthew 18:23-35. Like the man who was forgiven an unpayable debt, we all want to extract our pound of flesh from those we think somehow owe us. It is so easy to forget that we have made mistakes and were forgiven. It is also easy for us to forget how easy it would be for us to be the next Ted Haggard. And in our heart of hearts we all hope that, should we fall, we would also be forgiven. Sure there will be consequences. But when someone repents, is forgiven by God and yet can never quite measure up to our approval, then we are in danger of becoming the unforgiving servant in Jesus' parable. 

1 comment:

  1. I love your thoughts here. Forgiveness cannot be held for ransom in God's kingdom.