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Thursday, June 4, 2015

What is Christian Forgiveness?: Duggar Confusion

       Ever since the Duggar sex scandal aired (short version: when Josh Duggar was 14 & 15 he groped the breasts and genitals of five girls including his 5-year-old sister), there's been a lot of talk of Christian forgiveness. Judging by news articles, even a lot of people who have been reading the Bible for years don't seem to grasp that concept. And so no wonder people who don't read the Bible are completely lost about what "Christian forgiveness" actually is.
         Rather than lay out all the fallacies that have been floating around this week, here's my quick checklist of what Christian forgiveness is and is not.

Forgiveness for the Hereafter  
       The Bible talks about an afterlife: rewards in heaven for the good people, punishments in hell for the bad people. There's only one little catch. According to the Bible, no one is good (Rom 3:10). Wait a second, you say. What about great philanthropists, Mother Theresa, Gandi? The Biblical idea is that God's looking for a 100% test score to get into heaven i.e. if you yell at your kids once, or are jealous that your neighbor lost 50lbs and you didn't, you just went down to 99.9% and you are out. But before you get too depressed, according to the Bible, God sent His Son Jesus to live a perfect life and die on the cross for you (Jn 3:16).
       So if you believe in Jesus, when you get to the pearly gates and get your "oops, only 85% test score," instead of getting barred from heaven, you can say "I plead the blood of Christ." Then you get Jesus' 100% test score applied to you.
      Now according to the Bible, asking God to use Jesus' test score instead of yours is final. So if you are Mother Theresa and got a 95% test score and you know Jesus, you get a 100% test score. And if you're the scum of the earth and have a 10% test score and you know Jesus, you also get a 100% test score. So according to Christian forgiveness, no matter how many girls Josh Duggar molested and how awful he was, if he truly repented he can still ask for Jesus' 100% test score to apply to him and get into heaven.
        So that's Christian forgiveness. And we who are Christians are also called to apply that forgiveness to others (Mk 11:26). In a couple of internet forums, I saw some atheists posting, "If I believed in hell, I sure hope Josh Duggar rots there." According to the Christian principle of forgiveness, a Christian should never, ever feel like that about ANYBODY. God said He wants all people to repent and ask for Jesus' 100% test score (2 Pet 3:9). And we as Christians should want the same thing.

     So enough about the hereafter. What does Christian forgiveness mean right now while Josh Duggar is still alive?

Forgiveness in This World

Government Consequences
       Some Christians are saying that because Josh repented, he shouldn't face any consequences in this world. That's against everything the Bible teaches. The Bible very clearly advocates for justice being served by government authorities (Rom 13:4). The Bible rarely makes a distinction between how a Christian versus a non-Christian is punished by the government. But when a distinction is made, the punishment for the Christian is harsher since they should have known better. In particular, God says that on top of any punishment the government may hand out, He also hands out earthly consequences for Christians (Heb 12:6). In the Bible, God compares this to how parents discipline their kids to make them act better. So too, God disciplines Christians on earth when they do bad things like, er . . . molest their sisters. One could argue that the fluke InTouch find that led to Josh having his sins aired so publicly is part of God's discipline of him.

The Persecution Argument
       The Duggars have repeatedly said they are being persecuted for being Christians and many of their followers have agreed with them. Now many Christians around the world are being persecuted for their faith. Even as you read this, an American citizen and philanthropist to orphans, Saeed Abedini, is being held in an Iran prison for years merely because he believes in Jesus. (May I suggest you sign the petition to free him?:
     But the Bible is clear that just because you are a Christian, doesn't mean you can claim the persecution argument for everything (1 Pet 4:15). If your sins find you out as Josh Duggar's did, then the Bible says you are suffering for your sin not for the cause of Christ. So the Duggars' need to lay off the being persecuted for Christ line. They are receiving negative press because of their son's misdeeds and their failure to report it to the proper authorities. End of story.

Trust as Part of Christian Forgiveness
       The Bible commands Christians to be as "wise as serpents" (Matt 10:16). The Bible also talks about not trusting everyone and says that even people you know well can ruin your life (Micah 7:5, Prov 18:24). Christian forgiveness mandates that the sisters Josh molested hope that he changes and repents. Christian forgiveness does NOT mandate that any of his sisters ever talk to him again or allow him access to them or their children. If they want to stay in contact that's fine. But Christian forgiveness does not mandate that.

       So that's what I read in my Bible about Christian forgiveness. Anything you would add? What fallacies about Christian forgiveness have you seen in the news this week?

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  1. This is so difficult. One issue I take is your statement that the Duggars did not report this to the police. The interviews I've been watching with Megan Kelly is in contradiction to that. I'm guessing you may have written this before hearing from them. Consequences are tough. And they are living these. But one cannot dismiss that there is an agenda at play. Right or wrong, it is what it is. That's the way I see it. I deal with female prison mentorees who will never know life outside of prison walls. I'll respect their privacy and refrain from discussing their crimes. They are treated with love and respect. It's not our place to judge, just to minister. One would hope that this repentant brother, son, husband, and father could be ministered to as well. If his victims have forgiven him, who are we to refuse to do the same. I welcome your reply. God bless.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! As far as the Duggar interview, I hate to say it, but they lied about going to the police. The proof is in black and white. Jim Bob and Michelle were aware of the situation for about 16 months, did nothing official. Then after Josh touched the 5 year old sister, Jim Bob spoke privately to a cop friend of his (who is now serving 57 years in jail for child porn.) It was an "off the books" talk. The sit down with the police didn't happen until over 3 years later when Oprah got an anonymous tip and cancelled the Duggars being on her show and herself contacted the Arkansas police. At that point the police contacted the Duggars, so it was a mandatory contact, not initiated by the Duggars at all.
      I was very saddened to hear them try to lie/mislead about that fact.

    2. Oh and here's an Arkansas Times article about Oprah's involvement. Oprah did the tip in 2006 I believe. And the child molestation incidents happened in 2002 and 2003.

  2. Yes, the confusion about this drives me crazy!

    1. I know! It's really not ok for the Duggars to lie/mislead on National TV. :(

  3. Thank you for addressing this. Sinful acts have consequences. Illegal acts have consequences. This does not mean the same thing as persecution. I agree that we must forgive but are not called to be "best friends" with those who have hurt us. This is not a requirement of forgiveness.

  4. Having supported a frie nd who was sexually assaulted by a Christian leader and whose case went to court where the perpetrator was found guilty, I understand only too well the muddled thinking of many in the church. The pressure is on the victim to 'forgive' while the perpetrator is lavished with 'understanding' . Reconciliation without the necessary repentance is forced upon the victim who has to withstand being accused of bringing the church into disrepute for not covering up the crime or having it dealt with secretly within the church. The whole experience3 has been devastating and your article clearly and concisely sums up the teaching of Scripture - sadly not understood by so many.

  5. First, I would like to thank you for your article explaining Christian forgiveness, as it is very enlightening. The Megyn Kelly interview uncovered some very troubling anomalies with respect to the Duggar parents. The Duggars appear to go out of their way to show the rest of us that they are Christians, yet they truly do not understand why so many of us mere mortals find their actions troubling and consider them to be hypocrites. I would have so much more respect for them had they come forward and stated that they had covered up a dark secret, rather than pointing the finger at InTouch for exposing this story. The Duggars don't seem to realize that they don't have the right to use the "Christian Persecution Argument" against those who do not agree with them. I believe the more the Duggars try to defend themselves, the worst the outcome. After all, they chose to have a TV show based on their family and belief system. It stands to reason that if you make the choice to place your family in the public eye, you risk exposure to all of your family's secrets. It's no different than a person wanting to run for public office. True, every family has skeletons in their closet, but most don't parade around as if they are glowing examples of Christianity.

    1. Thanks for reading! And yeah, I absolutely agree with the hypocrisy argument. I think the idea of using a reality TV show as a "Christian ministry" platform as the Duggars always said their show was is kind of strange to begin with. I mean reality TV is all about acting stupid and losing all personal boundaries for dollars.

  6. Thank you so much for commenting! Not sure how I came across your blog site but so happy I did. Looking forward to following you and checking out your books.

  7. I agree with the point that forgiveness does not demand that we reconcile with the person. II might happen,, but we have no obligation to be reconciled . That may be too much to ask. Besides, God has offered forgiveness to all sinners but reconciiiation is conditional on lots of things, including repentance.