I felt angry and sick at heart when I heard the news. Ted Haggard is, or rather was, the minister of a mega church and the spokesperson for many millions of evangelicals in the US. So Ted was a bit like Joel Edwards and Nicky Gumbel rolled into one person. Ted also had the ear of George Bush and actively lobbied against same-sex marriages. So when the news hit that Ted had resigned his posts amid accusations he paid for gay sex and illegal drugs – the sense of betrayal, disbelief and shock were massive.
Ted isn’t the first and sadly won’t be the last high profile Christian leader who gets found out to be living a double life – preaching faithfulness and fidelity in the daytime while betraying his wife, his God, his congregation and his very own body at night. Not surprisingly some newspapers pounced on this own goal as yet another example of the hypocrisy of right-wing fundamentalist evangelical bigots. People like you and me!
Ted’s double-life was akin to driving at 100mph in the fast lane of a motorway with a bottle of scotch in your hand, seat belt unbuckled, a scripture verse on your bumper sticker, ‘Shine Jesus shine’ blaring out of the car-CD, Christian tracts out of the open windows and carving up other motorists.
The blur of blue lights in the rear view mirror herald your imminent disgrace – but not your downfall – that happened much earlier.
Ted has said sorry. Now he, his wife and family need time and space to try to put their lives back together. For the rest of the Christian community, the only good to come from this disgrace is a reminder of a lesson that we all need to learn and learn good.
Truth is, we are all flawed and sinful human beings. We also have a mortal enemy who wants to get a foothold into our lives so he can pull us down and discredit the gospel we love and seek to live out. Therefore we need to be aware of our own weakness and live transparent and accountable lives. We all need to be real with a few close Christian friends – people who love us and who we tell about our besetting sins.
The early converts of John Wesley met weekly to study scripture, pray and confess their sins to each other. Who do you know who will ask you the hard questions about your behaviour, your attitudes, your lifestyle and about what you think in your heart and do behind closed doors? This is no guarantee – but knowing that we will be asked the hard questions provides a powerful and positive peer pressure on us to live holy lives. It provides the equivalent of a regular MOT on our inner life and may keep us from disaster.
As well as praying for and encouraging our leaders, who have influence, profile and responsibility within the body of Christ, we also should remember they are far from perfect. Our respect for them should not stop us asking, expecting, demanding even, that they are in an accountable relationship too.
And while you and I may not have the influence of a Ted Haggard, we also have circles of influence.
So my question to you is – who really knows you? And if the answer is no one – do something about it today. Buckle up, otherwise you could be the next casualty in a pile up that will not just hurt you, but those in your lane, and ultimately damage the reputation of Jesus.