This kind of thing has happened before. How are we to think about such things?
It should make us sad
A brother has fallen. A brother is hurting. I will promise you, he is enduring unspeakable, unbelievable pain. Does he deserve it? Yes. But, so do I. We are all sinners. We are not fundamentally better. We are not fundamentally different. We are not above. We are not better than. Oh, our sins are not the same and that is what creates the illusion that maybe, just maybe his sins are down the food chain and I am a little different, or a little better and he is just getting what he deserves.
Deserve. If we ever really thought about that word it would change our lives. What does Ted Haggard deserve? He deserves hell. Just like me and just like you. Thank God, Christianity is not about getting what we deserve.
But, but, but, I don’t know that he is adequately repentant. He is probably not. He may be still a little self-justifying. I probably have not been as repentant as I should be either, and I doubt you have. Most of us think of ourselves a little better than we ought. With all our talk about “all have sinned” and “all are sinners” we sure seem awfully shocked when someone acts like it.
Don’t hear me saying that I disagree with the decision of the overseers in this case. I assume they made a good call in a bad situation. No one would want to be in their shoes. For them, this was personal. Ted was their friend. This is not about what decision should be made. It is about how we should feel. We should feel sad, very, very sad.
A more Christian response is sadness. Sad for Ted Haggard. Sad for his wife. Sad for his family. Sad for his church. Sad for evangelicals. Sad for the Church.
It should make us humble
I am capable of the same things. I am guilty enough to receive the same punishment, not only of Ted Haggard but of the worst sinners. I am not fundamentally better. I am not fundamentally different. I am cut from the same bolt of cloth. When I look at Ted Haggard and think of what he has done I am so tempted to think, “How could he?” A better question is, “Why haven’t I?” A more Christian response is to think with profound seriousness and humility, “Except for the grace of God, there go I.”
It should make us careful
It could happen to me. It could happen to you. Oh, you may not be tempted by this particular flavor of sin, but be sure that there is a flavor you are tempted by. And be sure the evil one know what it is.
1 Corinthians 10.13 offers some clear advice about how to see that it doesn’t happen to you. Here is my paraphrase of the verse: take the first exit. Don’t ever play with sin. Don’t get too close. Have some humility. It can happen to you and it can happen to me and I need to run, not walk when temptation calls.
I will never forget the night God showed me this lesson. I have shared in other contexts that I have had more than my share of marriage troubles. One Sunday afternoon we had a particularly ugly fight. The fight was interrupted by Sunday evening church. I played in our church band and a gal joined us that night from the singles group. Do I need to paint, brush stroke by brush stoke, how the temptation unfolded? I could do it; I can still remember every detail. Let me paint with broad strokes: I was deeply tempted to pursue a relationship with this lady. I don’t know what the sermon was about that night, because God had a sermon that He wanted to deliver to me. God showed me a series of events. He had me imagine that after the service as we putting up our instruments, a conversation started. Very normal conversation and first, then, just a little bit to personal. The conversation would linger and, at some point I would suggest we get a coke. One thing would lead to another. God showed me the whole scenario in my mind and convinced me that if you put me in enough pain and make the temptation gradual enough that I was capable of anything. Has God ever showed you that?
We really are all sinners. No one is fundamentally better. No on is fundamentally different. No sin is fundamentally worse. Oh, maybe there is an exception to that.
There is one sin worse than the sin of Ted Haggard. One sin, and only one. It is the sin of believing that you are better than, different than, not capable of doing, above Ted Haggard. That is the worst sin of all. That is the sin of the Pharisees-the sin that Jesus reserved his most scathing rebuke for.