Josh Duggar has repeatedly done criminal and inexcusable things. And with sadistic ebullience, Bill Maher piled on with the rest of the media and comedic left wing of America as the nation learned of Josh Duggar’s registration with the marital infidelity website, Ashley Madison. On cue, Maher used this latest failure by a famous Christian to attack all Christians. The comedian’s hatred smeared Jesus Christ, mocking that forgiveness of sin was trivial and somehow gave Christians a temporal get-out-of-jail-free card. For Maher, Josh Duggar was just one more opportunity to slander Christianity as hypocritical. The comic’s willful ignorance of the meaning Christ’s forgiveness has become routine; it is downright redundant. Josh Duggar’s actions were despicable, and were not Jesus in him.
One thing Maher does give us, as Christians, is a chance to take in a teaching moment, which is what inspires this article. There’s not much difference between how Christians and the un-saved fail. Famous or not, Christians are people too; we just admit that we are flawed, broken and need a savior. We can all learn from Duggar and from Maher. At least five topics emerge that are worth learning as disciples of Jesus Christ: self-examination, the process of being cleansed, forgiveness and restoration, acceptance of the world, teaching perspective to others.
Before we unpack the teaching topics, let’s examine the object of this lesson: Josh Duggar. Sexual addictions tend to be organic, obsessive and compulsive, and there is substantial evidence suggesting linkage of psychological and physiological inclination toward abnormal sexual behavior. Raised in a family with 18 other siblings, one can only assume that his parent’s preoccupation with procreation exacerbated his obsessive-compulsive disorder. Josh’s sexual assault on his sisters, pornography addiction and proclivity toward infidelity had several potential factors of causation. Not the least of these factors is evil. Satan knows Josh Duggar’s weaknesses.
The first area we’ll explore is the opportunity Duggar’s well-publicized failure gives us is to examine our own selves. The Holy Spirit will reveal and convict us of sin if we have eyes to see it. Constant contact with God helps us see what the Spirit tells us is standing between our hearts and God. Two pieces of scripture quickly come to mind that inform us of the Spirit’s work. The first is Jesus’ admonition to examine your own self before finding fault with another:
Matthew 7:5 (ESV)
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
The writer of Psalm 66 explains the effect of failing to confess our sin to God. We certainly cannot be helpful in restoring a sister or brother if sin is a barrier between us and God.
Psalm 66:18 (NLT)
If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
(2) The Process of Being Cleansed
We know if we read and understand the Word, and we pray for sin to be revealed, we can trust God to reveal and to heal our sin. God will free us from living in our sin if we earnestly desire to know it and repent.
John 16:8 (NLT)
And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.
When we do receive the revelation of our sin, and we confess and repent, God does an amazing thing. The writer of Hebrews uses a passage from Jeremiah to teach the mercy and forgiveness that Christ’s blood gives us when we confess or sins.
Hebrews 8:12 (NLT)
And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.
There simply is no up-side in denial, and no down-side to confession and repentance. Denial happens in the pride that lives in the flesh of our old, unsaved person. Pride is called the “mother of all sins” because it encourages us to believe we have an authority we don’t. We lie because we think we have authority over the truth. We steal because we believe we have an entitlement to take that which isn’t ours. Whatever our favorite sin may be, pride is usually its author. God requires us to restore ourselves to a right mind of humility before we receive the grace of forgiveness. The Apostle John instructs,
1 John 1:8-9 (NLT)
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
Beyond forgiveness, we can be assured God gives us grace and protection in our humility, and also assures that those who mock us will be mocked by Him.
Proverbs 3:34 (NLT)
34 The LORD mocks the mockers but is gracious to the humble.
(3) Forgiveness and Restoration
Once we’re saved, God gives us confidence that we are no longer slaves to sin, but always have Him for forgiveness and restoration. Our old path used to be a minefield of sinful traps. God gives us a new life of forgiveness, and we become bondservants to Him as He becomes our Lord.
Romans 6:22-23 (NLT)
But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
The plain meaning of healing and restoration is that Jesus heals; He is the Great Physician. Many of Jesus’ biblical encounters have a secondary meaning. Tyre and Sidon notoriously would not listen to the Word of God, so Jesus traveled there. In the Gospel of Mark, He not only heals a deaf mute, but also demonstrates that He gives ears to hear:
Mark 7:32-35 (NLT)
A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him. Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly!
At this point, it is worth noting the biblical record juxtaposed against the archaeological record. Jesus pointed out the stubborn recalcitrance of Tyre and Sidon, as did God through the Prophet Ezekiel 600 years prior. Gary Byers of the Associates for Biblical Research comments on Matthew 11:21-24,
Jesus pronounced judgment on Chorazin and Bethsaida suggesting that if the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon had experienced what Chorazin and Bethsaida did, they would have long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes.*
(Sidon) Even today, there is only one hotel and few restaurants for tourists. With numerous hammams (Turkish baths), souqs (markets) and mosques, it feels like an old world city. There is little industry and the port services only a minimal number of local fishing vessels… Today Tyre is a depressed city that suffered greatly during Lebanon’s civil war and Israel’s subsequent occupation of southern Lebanon.*
(4) Acceptance of the World – (5) Teaching Perspective to Others
Toward the end of the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus teaches acceptance to His disciples:
John 15:18-19 (NLT)
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.
The Apostle Paul offers perspective on how we willfully chose ignorance of God when we were lost:
Romans 2:14-15 (NLT)
Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.
Paul’s explanation gives additional context to a part of the Upper Room Discourse where Jesus shares the prophetic nature of how our sin-nature rejects God:
John 15:24-25 (NLT)
If I hadn’t done such miraculous signs among them that no one else could do, they would not be guilty. But as it is, they have seen everything I did, yet they still hate me and my Father. This fulfills what is written in their Scriptures: ‘They hated me without cause.’
Satan learns and exploits everyone’s greatest weaknesses. He knows the sinful nature of our flesh, so when an unbeliever fails, Satan persuades them that they will never be “good enough” to “earn” God’s unconditional love. People who reject Jesus Christ are usually held to a lower standard of expectations that Christians, because they don’t claim a unique moral standard.
Satan advances the misinformation that Christians think they occupy a higher moral ground than everyone else, based solely on their conversion to Christianity. Actually, Bible-believing Christians admit that they are flawed, broken, sinful and in need of a savior. Still, Satan exploits the misinformation his false assertion that Christians claim a moral high-ground. The Enemy of God uses the failures of Christians in an attempt to demoralize Christian and mock them before the unsaved. Satan ‘back-burns” the ground between the unsaved and God.
Still the truth remains that all humans have the same sin-nature that Josh Duggar’s fall very publicly illustrates. Our sin-nature will manifest in ways that are as unique as we are unique. If we run toward God, we get grace, forgiveness, love and restoration. If we run away from God, Satan either (a) wins if we are saved, or (b) never lost if we are still lost.
Serenity Prayer – Great Daily Medicine for our Spirit
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is;
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”**
*Byers, Gary. “The Biblical Cities Of Tyre And Sidon.” biblearchaeology.org. 1 26, 2010. http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2010/01/26/the-biblical-cities-of-tyre-and-sidon.aspx#Article (accessed 8 26, 2015).
**Niebuhr, Reinhold. “Serenity Prayer.” celebraterecovery.ca. 1 1, 1937 (1st Version, then revised). http://www.celebraterecovery.ca/prayer-of-serenity/ (accessed 8 26, 2015).