Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ted Haggard and the Process of Forgiveness

This past week former pastor and evangelical leader Ted Haggard appeared on Oprah and Larry King Live. His interviews served as previews for his HBO documentary, “The Trials of Ted Haggard”. The imbedded video gives a glimpse of Haggard’s reappearance into the public eye.

You can read my reflections on Ted and his wife Gayle from the time that the story broke in November 2006 here and here.

I really didn’t want to think about Haggard and his story. My wife thought I would be interested so she recorded the appearance on Oprah. I squirmed and felt uncomfortable throughout. Part of my discomfort lies with Oprah and her constant attempts to normalize and propagandize her heretical views. She is leading millions down a path that may be spiritual but it is in a direction that is going away from and not toward God. That’s stuff for another post sometime.

But Oprah’s format and constant interruptions are not conducive for discussing serious life process and theology. Her format presses for quick, easy sound bites. And Haggard’s issues, by his own admission, are complex. Such complexity demands private, out-of-the-spotlight life work. I can only speculate that Haggard needs money or is addicted to the limelight or both and thus he is going public with his process at a ridiculously early point in his recovery. He said he wanted to publicly ask for the forgiveness of his church in Colorado.

Somewhat lost in the lights and cameras that glare in Haggard’s face again are the heroic hearts of his wife and children. They are doing the difficult life work of forgiveness. I pray God’s power and grace upon them. How does God’s power to forgive come to them? Two words come to mind: “Before” and “After”.

When I finished watching the recording of Oprah, my dedicated and loving wife of 30 years asked, “Would you be able to forgive me if I was ever unfaithful?” Without a moment’s hesitation I responded, “Yes, because I decided that I would forgive you years ago if something like that ever happened, just like I decided I would forgive our children of a whole list of heartbreaking things that they could have done in adolescence that thankfully they never did.”

In other words, because God has forgiven me of so much, I am already predisposed to forgive others. If my wife or children were ever to deeply wound me, I’ve decided “before” the incident that I will forgive them. At the time of the offense and in the days “after” I will then call upon God for grace and help to carry out the work of forgiveness. Depending on the offense I may have to ask for God’s help in forgiving many times.

Why would I be so committed to forgiving no matter what? Because, it is the way of Christ. I want to become like Him and do life as He does it. I’m also predisposed to love, give, serve, etc.

I didn’t want to think about Ted and his story but such reflection has reminded me of the powerful life that Christ instills in His followers.

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