In November 2006, amidst great scandal, Ted Haggard the senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado and president of the National Association of Evangelicals resigned from his ministry. A loud and public critic of homosexuality, he confessed to inappropriate gay encounters of his own.
We might quickly cry "Hypocrisy!" but something deeper beckons our consideration.
Gordon MacDonald wrote in a pastoral note:
"When I see a leader who becomes stubborn and rigid ... less compassionate toward his adversaries [and] increasingly tyrannical ... I wonder if he is not generating all of this heat because he is trying so hard to say 'no' to something surging deep within his own soul. Are his words and deeds not so much directed against an enemy 'out there' as they are against a much more cunning enemy within his own soul? More than once I have visited with pastors who have spent hours immersed in pornography and then gone on to preach their most 'spirit-filled' sermons against immorality a day or two later."
This phenomenon spans the centuries. Shakespeare had Queen Gertrude exclaim, "The lady doth protest too much" in a scene in which a conniving woman kept insisting on her loyalty to her husband (Hamlet , III, ii, 239).
Excessive protests and overly vigorous opposition sometimes indicates wounds or weaknesses within us . Indeed, our own pain and failure can give us deep conviction and passion. Consequently, it may help us to clarify if our fervor and stridency arises because we are sorrowful for the fallen or struggling with ourselves. A critical spirit may reveal more of our self-perception than how we view others.
We should all pause.
Of course, silence is not an option. Salt and light must stand out, not blend in. Thus, our pause should not become stagnation. Nevertheless, the greatest enemy we face does not live in others but in our own breast.
The enemy within poses our greatest threat. Yes, we must speak out against oppression, injustice, and immorality. But let's also look within and pray for transformation.
Unless change becomes the constant of our own lives, we'll cease to be change agents in the lives of others.
Any suggestion that we have no sin will undermine our capacity to touch others ... family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or fellow-believers.
Before we crusade to tear down the strongholds in others, let's confront our own demons then speak truth out of lives of humility, obedience, and sincerity. Therein lies genuine freedom for all of us, including Ted.
In HOPE -