It was my senior year of high school. I knew Jesus; I knew that He said that abundant life was found only in Him, yet I doubted. Along with that doubting, I wondered. I wondered if the Bible was a book of wise words from a loving Father, or a textbook of rules that were much more fun broken.
I will never forget seeing a well-known Christian with a beer in her hand at the senior party. A-ha, I thought. She too was a 17 year old, underage drinking teenager, breaking the rules both legally and spiritually. She too, doubted. I was pleasantly surprised at the sight, and remember getting some sick satisfaction from it even. It was if her sin eased the pain and shame of my own in some twisted way.
Years later, well over 21 and infinitely more convinced that He is the only thing that gives true, eternal life, I look back on those days and am so thankful that He has given me eyes to see some of the “why’s” behind the words. You see, back then, I thought the issue was underage drinking. Now, I see it went much, much deeper. My reaction to that fellow teenage girl showed that I was missing the point of faith in Christ altogether. I was buying the cultural lie that morality equals Christianity. I felt like being a true Christ-follower meant dressing a certain way, behaving in a certain manner, attending certain events, hanging around certain people. While some of those things might be products of the Christian life; they are in no way the center. In fact, I now know that the crux of being a Christian is the recognition of the fact that I in no way have it together; that left to my own flesh without Christ, I am headed down an utter path of destruction. The process of this realization has been both freeing and challenging in a world that all too often puts performance and salvation in the same box.
“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?…He stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ …but when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord’. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more’.”- John 8:3-5, 7b, 9-11
In the Bible, it is pretty clear that the Lord has compassion on all. In the New Testament, you always find Him much more upset with the Pharisee than the sinner. I love it how we never know the depth of the sins of those involved. It reminds me that because He has dispelled our sins, the details are irrelevant in light of His love. The Pharisees were interested in calling out and shaming; Jesus was aware of the woman’s greatest need: not accusation, but unconditional acceptance, pardon, and love. He knew what the woman needed most was knowledge that someone knew the weight of her sin and loved her anyway.
I do not watch or follow the Duggar family, but I have seen a couple episodes of their reality show. I do not know them personally, nor do I know if the way they choose to live their life is based on an overflow of love for God or a personal moral performance. I have no way of knowing if everything they do is for fame or fortune; and I will never be able to read the intentions behind their hearts. I can say that as someone who believes authentic Christianity will always be radical according to the world’s standards, there are several choices they have made as a family that I believe are just plain wise. I watched an episode once that was based on how they choose to court, and I am more than convinced that Hugh and I would have been saved a whole lot of baggage had we been more diligent in following God’s Word concerning our dating relationships. Some of the things that the media has coined the Duggar way are really just God’s way.
As I read a few articles on Josh Duggar and a recent reveal of his past sin, I could not be more proud of the way this family has handled the situation. I say situation, but the truth is, it is really just their version of humanity. As a Social Worker, I get some of the comments. Do I think more counseling should have been involved? Probably. Should the news have come out sooner? Maybe. Do I have compassion on the girls involved? Of course. Yet, my position as a Christ follower trumps any of these other statements; and, like Jesus with the woman above, I want to be focused on souls, not sins. I want God’s Word to define how I treat the people around me- not the media. Josh Duggar has made it clear that he is repentant-deeply sorry- for the actions he did 12 years ago. And, as I think about 17 year old me, I shudder at all the wrongs the media could broadcast on myself. There are some who, like 17 year old me, felt satisfied reading the news; as if you had caught him in the cookie jar. The thing is this: Jesus took the nails for each of us. Sin is sin is sin; and the basis of faith in Christ is believing that no matter how deep the well of our sin, His grace and love are deeper still. In light of this, we should not be shocked at the sin of anyone around us, no matter how “holy” they are led to appear. We are all sinners deserving death without the blood of Christ, period. Sure, some of our sin has vastly different consequences, yet the heart behind it all is the same. The beautiful thing about Christianity is that no matter what your past, no matter how gross your sin is, He has you covered. All we have to do is believe in faith that this is true. We see it time and time again in the Bible. The worst of sinners- Saul who was persecuting the church, for example- being changed in light of His love. If you find yourself thinking that you could never be a Christ follower after all you have done, after all the junk you have stepped in, think again- you are the very person He desires to know! Because He has covered our sins on the cross, we do not have to live covering them up from the world around us.
Don’t get me wrong. Knowing Jesus will change you. He changes you. Slowly but surely, you begin to see that if someone so undeserving of the disgust of my sin-of the sins of the world- if He took it on for me out of love; surely He can be trusted in all things. In this world, the flesh will always be there; therefore the temptation to head toward death will, too. Yet overtime, as you get to know the One whose love is stronger than death, your desire to head toward disaster becomes less and less. You still find yourself stumbling into messes; yet you long to please Him more and more. The sin will continue to be there; but the longing for the sin is replaced for the longing of His presence.
So, Josh Duggar. He has a past. Guess what? So do I. So do you. I have no idea what other details will come out regarding his personal and past sins. I just know that I am not called to throw stones at a repentant sinner whose record has been made white as snow by the blood of Christ. Biblically leading someone to truth who does not see their own sin is one thing; reminding someone of the disgust of their flesh who has already accepted that Christ nailed it to the cross is another thing entirely. Sometimes, it is easier to see the gross in someone else’s sin because we are less acquainted with it. We can become so comfortable with our own sin that we lose sight of the futility and messiness of it; yet it doesn’t make it any less so. That’s the thing about sin- it is always leading us to a slippier slope of death and destruction. If you find relief in Josh Duggar’s sin, let it be relief that the same God who transformed and took in Josh Duggar is the same God who longs to do the same for you. May this be a lesson for each of us that God loves sinners and takes us in no matter what the cost. May we find hope in the fact that His forgiveness is full and His method has always been Jesus- for all people. In all things. Based on faith alone. May we be all the more aware of the deceptiveness of sin and what it always leads to. As Christ followers, may we never be deceived into thinking that our record is clean based on anything other than the cross. May each of us have humble, holy reminders that without Him, we will always choose death. Our past sins may not be scrolled across media, but for those that are, may we praise God for His goodness and mercies in their lives; and may we stand in awe of the God who has the power to redeem and nurture the safety of each of our souls. Josh Duggar, I praise God for His work in your life and I praise God for the work He will continue to do. We are in the same boat, brother. By grace and grace alone.