The other night at our church council meeting our pastor asked us to describe what we felt about Josh Duggar being outed on the Ashley Madison adultery website. Duggar is that guy from that reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting that focuses on the Duggar family, a seemingly devout Christian group of people. Before this recent revelation, Duggar had confessed that he molested his sisters when he was younger.
Our council members’ responses ranged from “disappointed” to “you can’t say those words in church.” (Yes, that was my response!). Duggar himself has come out and called himself the biggest Christian hypocrite in the world. I don’t think that quite defines it accurately though.
For non-Christians looking at us from the outside, Josh Duggar is what they see: A bunch of people claiming holiness and righteousness yet living lives that are exactly the opposite of what we preach at non-believers as to the way they should live. It goes beyond hypocrisy, which is saying one thing and doing another. We Christians chide unbelievers to act like us when in fact we’re acting in the same manner we’re condemning them for acting!
And it’s not just sex, although that seems to be the one that the Christian community – especially men in the Christian community – struggle with the most. It’s divorce, and abuse, and alcoholism, and cursing, and committing crimes, and not loving our neighbor, and greed, and ego, and anger, and jealously, and the list goes on and on that non-believers watching Christians see us violate every day and it turns them off to our faith. We’re great at talking the talk but Jesus even told us that we would be judged by the fruit we bear (Matthew 7:16-20). And my friends, Christians are struggling to bear good fruit.
Imagine for a second that you’re an unbeliever (perhaps you are!). Here’s some of what you’ve seen recently in the news:
- Josh Duggar molests sisters and cheats on wife through cheating website
- Creflo Dollar told his congregation that God told him to buy a $65 million jet
- Well-known pastor Ted Haggard is outed by his gay massage therapist in homosexual affairs
- Televangelists (Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Oral Roberts, Robert Tilton, etc…) involved in sex and greed schemes
- According to a 2014 Barna Group poll, 55 percent of Christian men viewed porn during any given month and 35 percent cheated on their spouse
There’s more but you get the point. Outsiders looking at Christians see the same thing they see in the secular world. The difference is the Christian community is hammering them to change and become “like” them. Who in the world would want to do that? Most non-believers I know would rather be an honest schmuck than a schmuck hiding behind Jesus pretending not to be a schmuck.
This may be hard for some of you to hear but the problem in our world is not the unbelievers. The problem in our world today are believers who act like unbelievers, refusing to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to transform them into the new creation Christ has promised them they can be.
Jesus was very clear on this point – He told us point-blank that the greatest commandment was to love God and love each other. He told us when we do this all the other commandments, law, and prophets will fall under this. If we love God we won’t trespass against Him. If we love each other we won’t trespass against each other. It’s that simple.
In the Duggar case, if he loved God he would not break his commandment against adultery. If he loved others he would not commit adultery against his wife. If Creflo Dollar loved God he would serve and instead of being served. If he loved his congregation he wouldn’t dream of asking them to sacrifice in such a way for him. Instead he would sacrifice for them. As for Christian men struggling with porn, if they loved God they would control their lust and if they loved themselves they would not do what is hurtful to themselves, and of course to their loved ones.
You see, the pattern of loving God and loving others can be placed on top of any action to determine if we really are loving God and our neighbors the way Jesus commanded.
But here’s the problem: In our fallen and sinful state we can neither love God perfectly nor can we love ourselves or our neighbors perfectly. Thus we fail to love and become extraordinarily susceptible to temptation. The problem is the lack of Christian love for God and each other not unbelievers polluting the world with their immorality. Jesus told us that our light would clear the darkness! But we have no light because we do not love!
Given this reality, here is what unbelievers should see Christians doing in their lives:
- Focusing on their daily disciplines of prayer and scripture reading
- Having accountability partners with whom they can confidentially share the ugly parts of their lives and get accountability, encouragement, and help in those areas
- Being transparent and vulnerable – admit you are a fallen person just like everyone else, no better and no worse only saved
- Submitting to the Holy Spirit and desperately seeking transformation in your life
- Hating their sins instead of hiding them or worse embracing them
- Not asking others to do what they themselves cannot do
- Stopping the judgment of others and focus instead on their own lives
- Inviting them to meet Jesus not their pastor, church, denomination, or religion
- Sacrificing themselves for others instead of serving themselves or trying to find comfort
- Loving everyone you meet because like you they are made in God’s image and like you they need grace, mercy, and forgiveness
Now don’t get me wrong, there are literally millions of Christians who try their best to live like this. Yes, we all fail miserably, but we’re trying! And unbelievers ought to see you trying; they ought to see your struggle and admire the fact that you are fighting to become like Christ instead of claiming to be like Christ when in fact you raised the white flag to Satan years ago.
As I think of Duggar and the others who really do hurt the image of Jesus among those who don’t know Him, I have two distinct thoughts.
First, we all fall short of the glory of God which is why we all need the healing and forgiveness that comes through Jesus, including Duggar and the rest of them. So pray for them that Jesus can redeem them and clean them up.
Second, it’s important that you share this message with our unbelieving friends: Never judge Jesus based on those who follow Him. His followers are a rag-tag group of people trying hard to be faithful in a fallen world but who are often defeated by Satan who is constantly tempting them to fall away. Jesus is who they need to meet – the Son of God, perfect in love, grace and forgiveness. Introduce your non-believing friends to Jesus and tell them to follow Him not the pastor, the church, the denomination or the religion. Follow Jesus in relationship with Him!
It’s always hard to watch a Christian fall, especially well-known or “famous” ones. But take heart – nobody can sully Jesus and not even the gates of hell can stand against His church. My prayer for you today is that you can go bear good fruit and that unbelievers will know you are a follower of Jesus by the way you love one another.