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ChurchWatch: Craig von Buseck

Join Craig von Buseck weekdays as he shares his perspective on the major trends and news affecting the Body of Christ today.


november 3, 2006

How Should We Respond to the Allegations about Ted Haggard?

I have interviewed a lot of notable Christian leaders over the years here at One of the interviews that I most enjoyed was with a man named Ted Haggard, pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. During the interview, he drew from his biblical knowledge, extensive ministry experience, and charismatic personality as he answered my questions on the future of the Church. This was only months before he took the post as the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals

I was genuinely impressed with Ted and his optimistic vision for the Body of Christ.

Now we have received the tragic news that Ten Haggard engaged in a homesexual adulterous affair, that he bought and possibly took illegal drugs -- and then he lied and misled people as the accusations against him unfolded in the media.

Mike Jones, 49, told The Associated Press that Haggard paid him to have sex nearly every month for three years. Jones said that he had advertised himself as an escort on the Internet and that a man who called himself Art contacted him. Jones said he later saw the man on television identified as Haggard.

He said that he last had sex with Haggard in August and that he did not warn him before making his allegations. Jones released voice mail messages from Haggard, as well as an envelope he said Haggard used to mail him cash.

So how should we respond to these allegations?

First, we need to pray. Pray for Ted Haggard and his family. Pray for Mike Jones. And pray for the authorities involved, that they would thoroughly investigate the matter to discover the truth.

I think that at times like these, when a leader is accused of misconduct -- or if he or she is found guilty of misconduct -- the Christian response is to first check our own hearts. The psalmist writes:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. (Ps. 139:23-24 NASB)

Often, our first inclination is to cast stones -- sometimes at the accused, sometimes at the accuser, sometimes at the Church, and sometimes at God. But are any of us really qualified to cast stones?

There is a powerful scene in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ" taken from the Scripture where a woman caught in the act of adultery is brought before Jesus.

Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:4-11 NLT)

Jesus doesn't condemn. Jesus doesn't throw a stone, though He was the only one that was without sin in this scenario. Jesus doesn't berate. Jesus doesn't gloat. Jesus doesn't make a joke.

Jesus does extend love and compassion to a hurting human being. "I don't condemn you," Jesus says with forgiveness in his voice and in his eyes. Then he gently encourages the woman, "Go and sin no more."

It is the kindness of Christ that leads us to repentance.

King David fell into sexual sin with Bathsheba, committing adultery after having her husband murdered. When the prophet Nathan exposed his sin, David cried out in repentance before the Lord, begging for forgiveness and mercy.

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. (Ps. 51:1-4 NASB)

David's main concern was that his relationship with God be maintained. He did not want to lose what was most precious to him -- the presence of the Lord in his life:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)

David knew he had sinned. The woman caught in the act of adultery knew she had sinned (and so had her missing lover, by the way). They didn't need to be reminded by a sanctimonious religionite -- it was all-consuming in their souls. During their time of agony in sin's shadow they cried out to God for mercy.

Regardless of the outcome of this investigation, one thing is clear, everyone involved has fallen into sin at one time or another. We are all in need of mercy from a loving God.

You might be tempted to condemn Ted Haggard, even before the full facts are known. I encourage you to withhold judgment. No human being is qualified -- for everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23 NLT).

You might be tempted to call Christian leaders hypocrites. I encourage you to withhold judgment. We all fall short of the ideals that we espouse, whether we are Christians or not. That doesn't mean that one should stop holding to ideals, just because one cannot always live up to those ideals.

If you are a Christian, you might be tempted to condemn Mike Jones for his lifestyle and choices. I encourage you to withhold judgment. Mike is a fellow human being in need of love, mercy, and forgiveness -- just like all of us. Jesus died for Mike. Jesus loves Mike -- and so should we.

If Christian leaders have hurt you in the past, and have said one thing, but did another, I encourage you to withhold judgment. Christian leaders are imperfect people, just like you and me, who are trying to lead others to love God and be better people. They don't always live up to the ideals that they proclaim -- sometimes they miss them altogether. But it is important to remember that we are not to base our faith on people in positions of leadership -- for they will all fail us at one time or another.

We are to put our trust in Jesus, and in Him alone.

This matter will be thoroughly investigated. And God has a way of allowing things that have been done in secret to be "shouted from the housetops" (Luke 12:2-3). A pastor once said, "nobody sins in a vacuum." Even sin done in secret can affect the people around us in ways we don't fully comprehend. We don't need to condemn Ted Haggard -- or anyone else, for that matter. Our own sin brings condemnation.

But there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1) and who have received His forgiveness. If Christ forgives the sinner, what right do we have to judge and condemn?

It is Jesus who wrote that unknown message in the dirt as a frightened woman lay shivering before Him, fearing for her life. The God of the Bible did not condemn this woman. And He doesn't condemn you. He doesn't condemn Ted Haggard or Mike Jones. He only declares with a voice of compassion, "Go, and sin no more."

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CBN News: Church Copes With Haggard Confession

Haggard Apology Read at Church Service

New Life Church Statement

AP Story: Mike Jones Brings Gay Sex Allegations against Evangelical Leader

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