The initial shock over Ted Haggard's fall has passed. The mainstream media spotlight has thankfully turned elsewhere. Nevertheless, Haggard's New Life Church and evangelicals nationwide continue to wrestle with disappointment, anger, grief, and compassion. One particular question has burdened many: How can I avoid something like this happening to my church, my spouse, or me?
One place to begin is by recalling that no one is exempt from temptation. Our "enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). Temptations will vary, as do our responsibilities, and Haggard's fall reminds us that God holds leaders to strict standards (James 3:1), even though their temptations may be more severe.
Reactions to Haggard again testify that evangelicals, contrary to many cinematic portrayals, have a warm appreciation for the grace of God. Most of us have heeded Jesus' warning not to judge, echoed by Paul: "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4). Many evangelicals, having fled from churches characterized more by judgment and hypocrisy than by grace and holiness, have no interest in condemning Haggard.
At the same time, we must not unwittingly encourage misconduct. Despite his struggles, Paul also wrote, "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin" (Rom. 6:6).
How do we treat sinners (that is, one another) with compassion, while still taking sin with utmost seriousness? Some call for increased accountability that can sound like legalism. Others fall over backwards to dismiss ...1
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