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You Christians eat your own, Always have always will.

Thoughts?



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I didn't plan to care about Ted Haggard. After all, I have access to Google and a Bible. I heard about what he did and knew it was wrong. I saw the clips from the news and the HBO documentary about his life after his fall. I honestly felt bad for him but figured it was his own undoing. When the topic came up with others I know in ministry, we would feign sadness, but inside we couldn't care less. One close friend said he would understand it more if Ted had just sinned with a woman. I agreed with him at the time. It's amazing how much more mercy I give to people who struggle with sins I understand. The further their sin is from my own personal struggles, the more judgmental and callous I become. I'm not proud of that. It's just where I was at that time in my walk. But that all changed in one short afternoon.

Eating our own

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."

Change of heart

He was running late for a meeting and had to take off. I, however, could barely move. I studied the TV and read the caption as a well-known religious leader kept shoveling dirt on a man who had admitted he was unclean. And at that moment, my heart started to change. I began to distance myself from my previously harsh statements and tried to understand what Ted and his family must have been through. When I brought up the topic to other men and women I love and respect, the very mention of Haggard's name made our conversations toxic. Their reactions were visceral.

Please understand, this isn't just my experience. Just Google his name and read what is said about him in Christian circles. Most Christians would say God can forgive him, but almost universally people agree that God will never use him again. When I pressed the question, "Why can't God still use Ted?" I was dismissed as foolish or silly. Most of these people got mad and demanded I drop the subject. Perhaps they saw something I was missing, but this response seemed strange. After all, I reasoned, Jesus restored Peter after he denied Christ. That's a pretty big deal. And what about the Scripture that teaches us that the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable? So I felt I needed to meet Ted for myself. So I had my assistant track him down for a lunch appointment. I live outside Denver and he was living in Colorado Springs, a little over an hour away. Perfect!

We exchanged a few emails and agreed on a date and a restaurant. I took two men from my staff, and we met him for lunch. All the way there, I quietly played out in my head how he would act. Would he be reserved? Sad? Angry or distant?

Surprised by friendship

In less than five minutes of talking with Ted, I realized a horrible truth—I liked him. He was brutally honest about his failures. He was excited that the only people who would talk to him now were the truly broken and hurt. During our conversation a lady approached him. He instantly went into "pastor mode" and cared for her. Deep inside God was teaching me that true salvation is an ongoing process. We spent two hours together and decided to stay in touch. I began to call and ask him church-related questions. He possesses a wealth of wisdom. He even has a growing church in the very city that knows him for his biggest failures. I thought I had it tough as a church planter! But God is causing his church to really grow. I met his wonderful wife, Gayle. She is a terrific teacher of grace and one of my heroes. When I grow up, I want to be Gayle Haggard. And so I became close friends with Ted Haggard.

But then the funniest thing started happening to me. Some Christians I hung out with told me they would distance themselves from me if I continued reaching out to Ted. Several people in my church said they would leave. Really? Does he have leprosy? Will he infect me? We are friends. We aren't dating! But in the end, I was told that my voice as a pastor and author would be tarnished if I continued to spend time with him. I found this sickening. Not just because people can be so small, but because I have a firsthand account from Ted and Gayle of how they lost many friends they had known for years. Much of it is pretty coldblooded. Now the "Christian machine" was trying to take away their new friends.

It would do some Christians good to stay home one weekend and watch the entire DVD collection of HBO's Band of Brothers. Marinate in it. Take notes. Write down words like loyalty, friendship, and sacrifice. Understand the phrase: never leave a fallen man behind.

Where's the love?

I 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. I wrestled with my part in this until I got an epiphany. In a quiet time of prayer, Christ revealed to me a brutal truth: it was my fault. We are called to leave the 99 to go after the one. We are supposed to be numbered with the outcasts. After all, we are the ones that believe in resurrection. In many ways I have not been aggressive enough with the application of the gospel. My concept of grace needed to mature, to grow muscles, teeth, and bad breath. It needed to carry a shield, and most of all, it needed to find its voice.

Grace must pick a side in the light of day, not just whisper its opinion in the shadows and dark places where we sign our name Anonymous. When a leader falls and then repents, grace picks a side. Grace is strong. Grace is a shield to those who cannot get off the battlefield. Grace is God's idea. Like a spiritual Switzerland, we stay in our neutral world where we can both forgive and judge but never get our hands dirty caring for the fallen. And when we don't pick a side, the wrong side gets picked for us. Crematoriums are more sanitary than hospitals. Let's change this!

Of course, I understand that if a person doesn't repent there is not a whole lot you can offer. But Ted resigned, confessed, repented, and submitted. He jumped through our many hoops. When will we be cool with him again? When will the church allow God to use him again? It's funny that we believe we get to make that decision.

The Ted Haggard issue reminds me of a scene in Mark Twain's, Huckleberry Finn. Huck is told that if he doesn't turn in his friend, a runaway slave named Jim, he will surely burn in hell. So one day Huck, not wanting to lose his soul to Satan, writes a letter to Jim's owner telling her of Jim's whereabouts. After folding the letter, he starts to think about what his friend has meant to him, how Jim took the night watch so he could sleep, how they laughed and survived together. Jim is his friend and that is worth reconsideration. Huck realizes that it's either Jim's friendship or hell. Then the great Mark Twain writes such wonderful words of resolve. Huck rips the paper and says, "Alright then, I guess I'll go to hell."

What a great lesson. What a great attitude. I think of John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends." Maybe it's not just talking about our physical life. Perhaps it's the life we know, the friends we have and lose. Maybe I show love when I lay down the life we have together to confront you on a wrong attitude or action. Maybe we show no greater love than when we are counted with people who others consider tainted. Becoming friends with Ted was a defining moment in my life, ministry, and career. Sure, I lost a few relationships, but I doubt they would have cared for me in my failures. So really, I lost nothing. If being Ted's friend causes some to hate and reject me—alright then, I guess I'll go to hell.

Michael Cheshire is pastor of The Journey Church in Conifer, Colorado and author of How to Knock Over a 7-11 and Other Ministry Training (2012) and Why We Eat Our Own (2013)

How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


by on Jan. 23, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Replies (81-90):
Sisteract
by Whoopie on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:08 PM

Very interesting thought.

Quoting LuvmyAiden:

This is why I am christian and have a relationship with god but I do not attend church very often. I think people are like dogs when they get in a group. ONE dog is not all that dangerous, however in a pack they are dangerous and likely to act in uncharacteristic ways to please the pack. I don't think church and organization is a have to when it comes to faith. It tends to bring out the worst in folks across the board to be in a big group IMO. Then the small leader majority makes us all look bad, not cool.


AdrianneHill
by Platinum Member on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:10 PM
1 mom liked this
This was actually quite touching
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stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:14 PM
1 mom liked this

So in other words, no matter what religion people are, they tend to continue to be human.  :)

Quoting ejsmom4604:

This isn't just a Christian issue, this is also a Jewish issue, a Muslim issue and any other organized religions issue. I have seen Muslims bash other Muslims for not being Islamic enough, or not understanding enough because they weren't born into the belief etc (on facebook btw). I have seen first hands the gossip that the Jewish people speak of each other. Degrading and looking down their noses because someone did something different. And this is why I keep searching my heart and keep finding that I don't want to identify with any specific belief. 

To some of those that have replied, this really wasn't about individuals, but how in general Christians acted and behaved coming from a Christian point of view. And again it isn't just Christians that do this. 


somuchlove4U
by on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:14 PM
1 mom liked this
I love this article. I'm Christian and it saddens me to see other Christians so mean and hateful. God loves and forgives. We should and need to do the same.
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somuchlove4U
by on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:18 PM
My mom acts like this. I can tell her only God knows that persons heart until I'm blue in the face. She still won't change her mind.

Quoting momtoscott:

 What's been troubling to me is the delight some (not all, not most, but a goodly number) Christians seem to take in being mean to people who they can feel are on the way to hell for whatever reason.  It's as if they feel that they have to compete for salvation, that heaven will not be big enough for everyone. 

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survivorinohio
by René on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:19 PM

I dont disagree with you.

I do know Christian parents for whom the consequences of sin in their children  became reasons for them to be cold and indifferent.  I bristle over some peoples feelings about consequences.

Compassion, empathy and respect are necessary elements of love IMO and sin is no reason to limit them.  For instance, if someone like me did cause themselves serious issues breathing from smoking I believe there is still a place for compassion.  As is for the drinker.

Very often these kinds of things are used to divide and separate us even within congregations. I fully understand a person protecting themselves from environments where they would be tempted but the growing seperationist attitude I see is more about disagreeing than temptation from what I can gather.

Quoting dinc:

I am sure there are lots of Christians who smoke.  The consequence (logical, physical) is your health.  If there is a church that would say someone is not a Christian because they smoke or drink for that matter, they aren't much of a church.  I have gone to church most of my life.  My denomination is against smoking and drinking.  However, they don't go around throwing people out for it.  They love people in spite of themselves.  Church members have loads of things they do that they shouldn't.  The shoulds and shouldn'ts vary from church to church.  

If someone commits a crime, it is both a sin and illegal.  God will forgive this person is they ask.  The state probably will not without there being some sort of jail time or other ending.  God forgives but he doesn't remove the punishment.  If someone drinks until their liver is destroyed, God will forgive the person for hurting himself and others but He will not necessarily heal the liver.  Hate the sin, not the sinner.  

God sent his son, Jesus, to save those who were and are sinners.  He didn't come to hobnob with the folks who think they are perfect and holier than thou.  If the world was perfect, there would have been no need for Jesus.   


Quoting survivorinohio:


Quoting dinc:

Hate the sin, not the sinner.  Christians are all flawed.  They are just like everyone else in that respect.  Loving others despite their flaws is Christian.  There are lots of twists and turns here.  I love my children but I don't always love what they do.  God loves us but not the sins we commit.  We are to be like God or Christ in that.  He forgives and so should we.  There are still consequences, even with forgiveness.

Lets explore that a minute if you will,  I am a Christian, a very unperfect one if I do say so myself.  I smoke cigarettes as one example of my imperfection, there are many more I assure you. 

There are Christians or people of faith in general who would decide I can not have faith myself due to my sin.  There are others who accept that I love the Lord and make a place for him in my life despite my sin.  There are others who would say it is a stain on my testimony that makes me worthless to the Body.

The consequences of this sin are pretty clear in the physical sense and need no exploration in this case.  The social consequences could be profound depending on the circle I enter.  The spiritual consequences are between God and I.

What kind of consequences are you referring to because it has been my experience that many trhings are deemed consequential that simply should not be.?




How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


survivorinohio
by René on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:20 PM
1 mom liked this

Its a constant condition :|

Quoting stacymomof2:

So in other words, no matter what religion people are, they tend to continue to be human.  :)

Quoting ejsmom4604:

This isn't just a Christian issue, this is also a Jewish issue, a Muslim issue and any other organized religions issue. I have seen Muslims bash other Muslims for not being Islamic enough, or not understanding enough because they weren't born into the belief etc (on facebook btw). I have seen first hands the gossip that the Jewish people speak of each other. Degrading and looking down their noses because someone did something different. And this is why I keep searching my heart and keep finding that I don't want to identify with any specific belief. 

To some of those that have replied, this really wasn't about individuals, but how in general Christians acted and behaved coming from a Christian point of view. And again it isn't just Christians that do this. 



How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


stacymomof2
by Ruby Member on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:22 PM
1 mom liked this

This is a good article.  The way I was taught at church was that we are to be humble, and not judge, and do our best to emulate Jesus.  Forgiveness is most holy.  Judging is making yourself as a partner to God, and we are not to put ourselves at the level of God but to humbly serve God, using Jesus' example.

Now where it comes in to be telling people they are going to hell or that they aren't a "good Christian" I don't know.  

I am a Christian and you would not believe the number of people on this site who tell me I am not.


survivorinohio
by René on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:25 PM

While that has not been my experience I can see where it must happen.

I think that the Bakers definitely didnt see a  lot of forgiveness.

Thanks for another view though it  has merit to be sure.

Quoting FrogSalad:

I see it the opposite of the OP's atheist friend.

It always seems to me that (some vocal) Christians are all too quick to forgive their leaders any transgression while condemning those average Joe/Jane folks for the same or lesser sins. It seems all the preacher/leader has to do is cry and appear repentant and all is forgiven. 

Case in point: the pedophile preacher whose congregation banned children so that he wouldn't be tempted. 

Further than that, I disagree with the atheist friend who said, "That is the reason I will not become a Christian."  Regardless of how any one person or group of Christians act doesn't change the true or falsity of their claims.


How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


survivorinohio
by René on Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:27 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting stacymomof2:

This is a good article.  The way I was taught at church was that we are to be humble, and not judge, and do our best to emulate Jesus.  Forgiveness is most holy.  Judging is making yourself as a partner to God, and we are not to put ourselves at the level of God but to humbly serve God, using Jesus' example.

Now where it comes in to be telling people they are going to hell or that they aren't a "good Christian" I don't know.  

I am a Christian and you would not believe the number of people on this site who tell me I am not.


I cannot believe the number of women here who can see the state of a persons heart. *shake my head"

How far you go in life depends on your being: tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of both the weak and strong.  Because someday in life you would have been one or all of these.  GeorgeWashingtonCarver


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