Update: On August 20, 2015, Duggar also admitted to seeking out adulterous affairs online.
News broke over the last couple of days that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of the family famous for their “19 Kids and Counting” television show, admitted to inappropriate sexual touching of younger girls 12 years ago when he was 14 years old. Duggar was a trending topic on both Twitter and Facebook throughout much of Thursday as thousands of people weighed in with their thoughts on the situation.
I have to admit, one of the first things to come to mind was frustration that yet another person seen as a prominent figure of the larger “Christian” culture in America has now given anti-God voices a story they can latch onto any time they want to slam Bible-believers for being hypocrites on issues like homosexuality. And, that’s exactly what’s started to happen. But after thinking it over, I don’t think that response is proper. Instead, I see three lessons Christians everywhere can take from this unfortunate mess of a situation.
First, we have to stop pretending. See, what my original response says is, “Great, now the world knows this guy who claims to be a Christian isn’t perfect.” That’s a problem. Christianity isn’t about perfection. In fact, it’s about imperfection, and how that imperfection is made perfection through justification and sanctification. But my response (one I’m sure I’m not alone in having) says that there is no room for imperfection, especially the “big” imperfections, and that flawed concept is what has given the world the upper hand in these discussions. When we don’t allow for imperfections, we’re telling the world to watch us and wait for the first sign of weakness so they can disbelieve Christianity.
What if, instead of trying to pretend that we’re all well put together people who live perfectly moral lives, Christians admitted our weaknesses every now and then? What if, like the apostle, we pointed to our sin-soaked pasts and call ourselves the chiefs of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15)? Rather than seeing carefully manufactured facades guarding our imperfections underneath, the world would see hopelessly flawed people being rebuilt from the inside out by a Savior whose love knows no end.
The pretend image of perfection that you and I take into worship and Bible study each Sunday and out into the world throughout the week isn’t just hurting ourselves, and it isn’t just hurting our brothers and sisters who struggle, it’s hurting those in the world who see us as hypocrites who have all the time in the world to talk about their sins but refuse to acknowledge any weaknesses of our own. That tells the world to look at us as the shining examples of Christianity. Guess what? That’s going to fail every time, because we aren’t perfect. But we can point them to someone who is.
Second, we had better be working on our example. No, we aren’t perfect. On the other hand, 1 Peter 2:12 does command God’s holy nation to keep their behavior excellent among the outsiders so that they may glorify God. Some use the truth of “I’m not perfect” to say that we don’t even really need to try. Nothing could be further from the truth. The world around us is looking at us every single day. If they see a bunch of people who act exactly like them, dress like them, talk like them, drink like them, watch the same entertainment as them, and spend their time like them, why on earth will they think they need Jesus in their lives? But, if they see people who are becoming increasingly unrecognizable in their behavior, they’re going to know that Jesus changes lives.
Our worldly friends and colleagues are going to notice every time we slip and fall, but what they should also see is that we’re not going to settle for that. They need to see people who take sin as the life and death matter that it is. Our desire for holiness should be stronger than our desire to continue in sin, and the life we live as a result should help them see God’s glory in us (Matthew 5:16).
Third, it’s time to get the log out of our own eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). Duggar worked as a strong advocate against the homosexual agenda for the Family Research Council (a position from which he resigned following his confession). While that’s an important task, you would think with his past that he would be using his platform to fight all sexual sin and abuse more vocally. He was removing the speck from the eyes of the homosexuals while not really addressing the log in his own past.
On the other hand, who can blame him? I’ve written many times that we preachers and Christian writers can talk about the sin of homosexuality all day long with no problems. Why? Because it’s a simple truth, it doesn’t require anything from us, and it’s wildly popular among our potential audience. The statistics on just about every Christian site show that articles on homosexuality get the most shares… but write an article or preach a sermon about pornography, lust, divorce, sexual abuse, adultery, or premarital sex, and suddenly that site traffic goes way down. Suddenly there are a lot less pats on the back for a good sermon. We’re doing a great job of fighting the sins of people who are almost entirely outside of the church, which is exactly what Paul told the church not to do in 1 Corinthians 5:12. When the church at Corinth was tolerating sexual sin in their midst, Paul was stunned that he had to tell them to stop worrying about the sins of people who still didn’t believe Jesus anyway and instead turn their attention to cleansing the blatant sin in their midst.
It’s about time we start doing the same thing, and that starts all the way back at where this discussion on Josh Duggar started – we have to start admitting we aren’t perfect. Rather than shunning the guy who admits a pornography addiction, why don’t we embrace him and help him through it? Rather than taking a drastically different look at the couple who is working through the aftermath of an affair, why not pray with them and encourage them to keep seeking God? Rather than fighting homosexuals all the time, why don’t we start with cleaning up our own homes? What if we showed people that there is forgiveness in God’s church, and that they aren’t defined by their pasts?
I don’t know Josh Duggar or anyone from the Duggar family, and I likely never will. However, public sins and “falls from grace” like this give us a clear peek into both the culture’s perception of sin and our own. Satan doesn’t let us outrun our sins, and he wants us to think we’re on our own, that we can’t confess we aren’t perfect. Rather than letting them believe those lies, rather than shrugging and getting frustrated with people who sin, let’s show them the same love the Father shows us when we return.
By Jack Wilkie
(Just in case these need to be made, here are the obvious statements I didn’t have room for: What Duggar did was horribly wrong, and the way his family reported it didn’t help. Obviously no amount of confessing and pleading for forgiveness makes the consequences go away, and the people to be pitied are the victims, not Duggar. No, I don’t endorse the Duggar family’s doctrines of Christianity.)

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