Going To Hell With Ted Haggard by Michael Cheshire is a terrific article that I think every Christian should read because it really exposes a problem we have as Christians… that being we are all petty humans who don’t want to forgive like Jesus commanded us to. Forgiveness is hard especially if it’s a sin that we have never struggled with. Perhaps you have never struggled with homosexuality, alcohol addiction, drug dependency, post-abortion depression, self-hatred, suicidal thoughts, clinical depression, gambling addiction, sex addiction, pornography or a myriad of other things those around you may be struggling with. It’s true for me, and probably for you, that it’s a lot easier to be passive or even look down upon others who are struggling or have fallen into a sin that is not something we regularly deal with.
We are especially critical of our Christian brothers and sisters that we hold to a much higher standard than the average joe. If that brother or sister is a minister or clergy there’s a good chance they will be tossed out and rejected for the rest of their days if they are caught committing one of the “big” sins. We so quickly abandon our “big” sinners, sometimes even scoffing at the notion that justice has been served by their public shaming and fall from grace. Never does it cross our mind that by doing this we are in complete opposition to the teachings of Christ.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:32
I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10
I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:7
The fact that no one is talking about when it comes to Ted Haggard, a fact that I was previously unaware of, was that the man repented and is still trying his best to continue his life of service to God. I had no idea. I just assumed, as I’m sure a lot of people did, that he disappeared into a shadowed and disgraced existence. The man knows he was in the wrong and he has reconciled this with the Lord. So why is it that we cannot forgive him? Do we think we are better?
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses neither will your father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying ‘I repent’, forgive him. Luke 17:3-4
So also my heavenly Father will do to you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. Matthew 18:35
The cold truth of the matter is that we don’t have the right not to forgive Ted Haggard. We are all sinners saved only by the grace of God. We have nothing we can bring to the table and we all share in the same sin as Pastor Ted even if our sin manifests in a different form. Perhaps our sin is anger, jealousy, pride, gluttony, or a hard heart unwilling to love a man who has said he is sorry. Christianity is not about casting out the evil ones and keeping the good ones, there are no “good ones.” We are all messed up and broken in one way or the other, but God still loves us. If a perfect and Holy God can love a broken people, why can we not forgive and love each other?
Let’s look at the parable of the Prodigal’s Son in Luke 15:11-32. In that passage it is clear that the runaway son was in the wrong. He was disrespectful to the father, he was wasteful, he was selfish, he went on a pure hedonistic spree and then had the audacity to come back to the father and beg for forgiveness. Notice the Father does not wait for his son to come to him and punish him out of spite, but rather he runs to his son and embraces him. He forgets the past and makes all things new. It is only the arrogant son who stayed home that has any qualms.
Let us not be the arrogant son. When our brothers and sisters fall and try to get back up let’s be like the father who was quick to embrace them. That is, after all, what Jesus commanded of us. If we are going to call ourselves Christians and love the lost, we might want to learn how to love our own brothers and sisters first. Does Ted Haggard deserve a second chance? No. But neither do you or I, and this isn’t about what’s fair. This is about grace, mercy, and love. This is about reconciliation and following Christ, not because it’s fair, but because it is the right thing to do.