Word play is often a device to capture the imagination and draw attention. As many, I have read the "breaking news" and the many "blog responses" regarding Ted Haggard, his life, ministry and family. For several days I have resisted the urge to write thinking others may well have said what I might. Some responses amazed while others inspired. I confess to being "haggard" over it all. Merriam Webster Online offers this picture of "haggard" –
1 of a hawk : not tamed
2 a : wild in appearance b : having a worn or emaciated appearance : GAUNT <haggard faces looked up sadly from out of the straw — W. M. Thackeray>
Scot McKnight reflects on the matter and puts forth a proposal. He writes,
Thus, a proposal, and I can only suggest it and
hope that some evangelical leaders will catch the same vision â??Ã?Ã® some at
the national and international leadership level: evangelicals need to
work hard at creating an environment of honesty. It is
dishonest to the human condition to pretend that Christians donâ??Ã?Ã´t sin;
but as long as we are afraid to confess to one another we will continue
to create an unrealistic and hypocritical environment.
To do this, we need to begin at the local church level of learning
to utter honesty with one another, to confess sins, privately as much
as possible, to mentors who are spiritually sensitive. I believe if
confession becomes a safe environment â??Ã?Ã® and exposure of what is
confessed in private must be treated as a serious offense â??Ã?Ã® that an
entirely new environment can be created in which time will bring out
the sins of Christians in such a way that it is both recognized and
simultaneously dealt with responsibly so that ongoing growth and
periodic healing and restoration can take place.
I once had a conversation with my PCA friend Mark. We discussed the need to announce forgiveness to those seeking it. Growing up trying to get my mind around the Roman Catholic practice of confession I always found the criticism pointed at the fact, "I don’t have to confess my sins to ‘no’ Priest!" The penchant to live into our "individual" access to God through Jesus Christ also provided a means to "hide our sin." Scripture suggests the need to "confess our sins to one another." Certainly we should take great care in this action. We need someone mature enough to which we can go and admit our failings. At the same time that person needs to hear our confession and help us think through just what ways repentance needs to be expressed and then we need to hear, "You are forgiven." The power to forgive sins rests with God. Yet, we sometimes need to hear a voice reminding us when we confess and repent God indeed forgives. When we cannot "hear" that truth audibly expressed we tend to internalize the guilt long after we have confessed and repented. Living with kind of false guilt does not lead us to liberation but rather to further captivity to our imagination and the Accuser always standing by to point out just how we have failed. John seems to address this matter when he writes that God is greater than our hearts when our heart condemns us. We really do need to hear we have been forgiven. A real spiritual friend will speak that into our lives not because they possess the power to forgive but because they can give voice to the truth in the same manner in which we call on pastors and preachers to do the same from week to week in the preaching event.
Even more, when these particular kinds of events come to light, we really need to listen to a variety of voices before retreating to our standbys. My friend David pastor’s in New Jersey. We shared lunch when he was in OKC back in August. He is also "gay." We have discussed life and faith in this context online and offline. Bo, as we know him, gives his thoughts and we have some exchanges in the comments on this post. I admit to my own lack of being able to put these things together. Immediately some who read my blog may dismiss David’s thoughts because they cannot abide his "lifestyle." Yet, there is something very real at work in his wrestling with the unfolding events. I recall being told to be wary of someone who goes to seed on a particular sin, say pornography, for they may be hiding their own bewilderment and inability to defeat the darkness that attends the experience. The reality for this kind of experience is the internalizing of guilt so that publicly we go over the top attempting certainly to convince our hearers of the evils but to speak loudly into our own lives of what we really long to overcome.
Scot’s proposal may give us a way to move beyond the very thing David describes. It is utterly ridiculous for us to consider spiritual leaders do not sin. We long to be in the place Dallas Willard describes when the activity of the Spirit is so overwhelming in our lives that we no longer find ways to manage our sin, but that we find that "kindness is in our tongues." That is, thee natural response from us is kindness before it is too late to express such. You know, after we have already excoriated the checker at the local Walmart for perceived ineptitude. We never stop to consider what kind of day and what kind of blessing we could be until after we have ruined the opportunity with our idolatrous tongue. Had kindness been in our tongue it would have naturally flowed from our mouths. Oh for the day when the fruit of the Spirit become more a reality than simply a distant dream.
Barry offers even more insight. He may well be too provocative for some, but another voice calls us to consider the ethic we proclaim more seriously. If love is our ethic, then let’s figure out how that fits beyond our moralizing. Jason noted Sunday we would do well to consider the problem in our world to be sin rather than singling out a perceived agenda as the cause for our social failings. In reality, what Barry and Jason call our attention to is the day when we who follow Jesus will realize our role in creating a better world because we are living by the ethic of Jesus. When our own ethics fail to rise above those who do not follow Jesus, we have lost the moral high ground to lay the charge at the feet of others for the damage they do.
I am finding the walk through Ezekiel at the very least a reminder that judgment begins with the "House of God." And, unfortunately we are all to quick to point out just where sin lies outside the community than to get honest about its presence within. Something the world notes quickly and we simply try to hid.
Greg climbs on board and addresses the opportunists among us who quickly lay siege to knowing just how to overcome the temptations among us. He rightly exposes the unhealthy penchant to say to one segment of our society just what they could do to help we who minister avoid such pitfalls. Again, this seems to suggest a way to manage the darkness within rather than address the sin within. If I can blame my wife for my failure, I never have to assume responsibility.
I never intended this to something of an "around the room." There are plenty of other good pieces I could have noted. I was simply sitting at the keyboard this evening a bit "haggard." It really has nothing to do with what happened to Ted Haggard. Instead, the recognition that any bit of news has the potential to be processed in such a way to leave one feeling a bit "low." Now I realize we are not supposed to admit to such. But, if Scot is correct, this is a good place to be honest. Some of us use this medium to "process things/thoughts." One of my friends suggests the medium to tend toward self-promotion. But, it sure is a way among those who join us in this space to say just how we are working through things. We may, as my friend Spencer always points out, not stay where we are but we should have the freedom to ask, assert, question and process to a better understanding of the way of Jesus and life with God.
So accept my rambling as a bit of processing. Interact with me on any of these thoughts. Be willing to listen to a variety of voices. And by all means, be willing to be honest when we discover together that we may ourselves be attempting to escape our own darkness through our diatribes. If we are unwilling to admit to such, we deserve to be quite haggard over it all.
2 comments on “Haggard over it all …”
Thanks for your thoughts on this matter with Haggard. I appreciate how you’ve explored other responses aimed at getting us to consider all the ramifications of sin and accountability.
As I read your comments from Scot McNight, in particular, supporting an environment of honesty, I totally agree. Creating and living with honesty is certainly the way to go–and it’s one of the toughest things to actually put in practice over and over again.
In regards to this honesty, I have created a Pastoral Advisory Team, in which I can go to for questions, they can come to me with questions, and I am held accountable above and beyond the normal channels (e.g., the Board of Trustees, Deacons, and Church Council). So far it’s worked very well and the folks on this Team were chosen by me and affirmed by the leaders of the church. It is working well–although admittedly, it only began a few months ago.
It’s been my experience that anyone left unaccountable, especially pastors, any one of us can get to the place where we think we can do whatever we want- which only opens the door to trouble.
And there is another way I work towards honesty–I try my best to be as transparent as possible. I don’t tell everything I know but I do talk about some things and let folks know I am human too. When I make mistakes, I fess up to them sooner rather than later, and I open my office and home up to meetings and fellowship gatherings (and even let the older ladies snoop through my bathroom).
Being an openly gay pastor, I admit to going overboard with my transparency. I know my heterosex- counterparts who have and maintain a very private life. As for me though, that doesn’t work and for others, I want them to know that I am being careful.
In doing so, I am less open to speculation of sin as well as less open to the belief that I am above it because we all know that none of us are above it.
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