This week it was reported that the oldest son in the reality show "19 Kids and Counting," Josh Duggar, had admitted to fondling minor girls when he was 15. According to CNN, Josh admitted his guilt to his parents and the authorities and then took the necessary steps toward healing and forgiveness (through counseling). But, as you can expect, the media is taking this story and running with it.
As they should.
Some people blame the media for fueling the fire in this story and discrediting the Duggar family. Others blame the "outdated" family upbringing that "limited" Josh's knowledge of sex and thus led him to act out in such a vile way. However, both views are entirely missing the point by not focusing on the deepest cause.
Sin is the issue here, folks. Sin.
It is a nasty defiler of everything good, everything holy. It is a destroyer of families, relationships, and reputations. It lies, steals, and cheats us out of experiencing real life by settling for cheap substitutions. It tells us to "do what feels right" and leaves us feeling worse than we did before. It corrupts the message of Christ by making us apathetic to not only our own sin but also to the sins of others. It discredits the truth by leaving room for faulty, human opinion.
I am not saying Josh Duggar is to be excused - he is completely responsible for his sin. No temptation to sin overtakes us unless we give it the power to do so (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, sin is rooted in our own selfish, evil desires and we are not tempted by God (James 1:13-15). Every bit of Josh's actions were on him, so there are consequences. Even though he asked for forgiveness from his victims and of the Lord, there are still repercussions. We can't expect unbelievers to welcome Mr. Duggar back with open arms after this revelation.
The Christian community is acting as if Mr. Duggar is being bullied by the press, and I disagree. While I agree the press' intentions in bringing this story to light is probably not entirely wholesome, I am more concerned that Christians expect a lost world to accept our sermon of mercy and forgiveness when we don't wholeheartedly extend the same mercy and forgiveness to the world. There is major hypocrisy happening, and the message of Christ continues to be blemished. So, instead of blasting one another, let's heed these warnings:
1. There are always victims to our sin. Sin picks out a receiver and lets the arrows fly. Most of the time we victimize ourselves, but we can also hurt others. Mr. Duggar's sin is a prime example of literally victimizing others. Also, Judas Iscariot's sin of betraying Jesus led to Jesus' death (John 18:1-3). Don't be deceived into thinking your sin won't (or isn't) hurting anyone.
2. We are forgiven from sin, but there are still consequences. It would be a mistake to think you won't have to face the aftermath of your sin. Yes, Christ's blood covers our sins and presents us righteous before a holy God, but there will always be loss involved with sin. Loss of freedom, loss of status, and even loss of reward to name a few. Even Adam and Eve lost their home and faced God-ordained struggles because of their sin (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6-7 & 23). Some consequences are faced in this life, and the rest will be accounted for in eternity. That being said, Mr. Duggar is experiencing some consequences, and, unfortunately, so is his family (which leads us to the next warning).
3. Our sin affects others. In 1 Chronicles 21, we find King David telling his commander, Joab, to take a census of the troops, and it is very apparent that David's request was one of pride and arrogance because it was encouraged by Satan (verses 1-3). David soon realized his guilt, but the Lord sent a plague that killed 70,000 men! The king's actions left families without fathers, husbands, and sons. Even though David repented, others were affected. Similarly, Mr. Duggar's entire family and legacy is now affected. Our sins, friends, go so much beyond ourselves.
4. None of us are immune to sin. I hope no one misunderstands my quite frank evaluation of Mr. Duggar's sin: I am not saying he shouldn't be forgiven or allowed to move on from the horrendous event that happened in his teen years. Rather, I'm saying we should all take notice and take note. We can't allow sin to reign in our lives (Romans 6:12). It creeps in, makes us question everything we know to be true, and enters the ill-defended doors to our hearts. So, we need to be active in reading the word, memorizing it, and apply it to our lives so we can defend ourselves against Satan's whims. Don't be "devoured (1 Peter 5:8)!"
5. It takes a long time to earn a reputation back. Even after full repentance, forgiveness, and deliberate acts to make things right, it takes time to repair one's testimony in Christ. And, I would argue, sometimes it can never be fully repaired (at least not on earth anyway). Take the apostle Paul, formerly Saul, for example: After being one of the most influential proponents of Christian persecution in his day, he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus and became a believer (Acts 9:1-19). Immediately he started preaching, but his reputation made the crowds question his authority (verses 20-21). However, people started to trust him when they witnessed the power of God in Paul's life (verse 22). While Paul certainly wasn't a believer when he acted heinously, he was still held to his reputation for at least a certain amount of time. And the same is true of us. Keep in mind that your Christian testimony is at stake when you flirt with sin.
6. Pray for other Christians and help them conquer their sin. I have no doubt Mr. Duggar's parents prayed for him throughout his childhood and even more so once his sin was admitted, but they didn't just abandon him, or the victims, when the sin was discovered: they did what they could to help the healing process begin. James 5:19-20 says, "My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth, and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins." We all make lousy decisions, and some have bigger implications and earthly consequences than others, but our communal goal should be to help one another conquer sin. Through prayer, reliance on God's strength, and one another, sin can be eliminated.
7. Be thankful to God for conquered sin. While only the Lord knows if someone has truly won victory over a specific sin, we can be thankful for the times he's helped us in the past. When we doubt our ability to throw sin to the curb, that's when Christ shines brightest and his power is revealed (2 Corinthians 12:9). While Mr. Duggar may not be thankful for the resurfacing of his sin, he can still be thankful for no longer being enslaved by it. And the same is true for us.
People are watching us. Deal with sin, friends, so the message of Christ can be preached without hindrance.