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Thursday, September 03, 2015
The Risky Business of Forgiveness by Rose McCormick Brandon
Rose McCormick Brandon
Gayle Haggard and her husband, Ted, started a
church in the basement of their home. Twenty years later, the church met in a
massive auditorium that held 14,000. Ted Haggard was charming, hard-working and
caring. But he had a secret. Same-sex desires haunted him. At age 7, an
employee of his father’s molested Ted. Not in a violent way, but in a way that
interfered with his innocence. A sin was committed against Ted. And that sin led
to sins in his adult life that ultimately destroyed his ministry at the
mega-church and almost destroyed his marriage.
As a married
man in love with his wife, Ted struggled with same-sex attraction. Eventually,
he gave in to these temptations. Ted allowed his childhood secret to lead him into a
secret adult life. (It bears noting that many childhood victims of sex crimes do not let crimes against them lead to crimes against God and others.) Ted's other life went undetected until the day a masseuse went
public with allegations against him. Gayle, the mother of their five children
and the women’s ministry pastor in her husband’s church, laughed when she first
heard the accusations. It couldn’t be. Not Ted, her college sweetheart, the man
she’d devoted her life to.
the public eye, Ted’s denials fell apart. In tears, he admitted his sin, to
Gayle, to his children and to his staff. It would be an understatement to say
that Gayle’s world fell apart. Reporters camped outside their home. Friends
forsook them. They had to leave their church, their home and, for a while,
Gayle to divorce him. “I’m too toxic for you and the kids,” he said.
“I stayed with Ted because commitment means something to me. I’ve committed my
life to God which means that I’ve chosen his ways and I follow his example of
love and forgiveness. I’m committed to our marriage, to stay in this journey
till death do us part. I am committed to our children and I want to restore
honor and dignity to their lives.”
started reading Gayle’s story, Why I
Stayed, I couldn’t imagine why any woman would stay with a deceiver like
Ted Haggard. But . . . when I learned about the seven year-old who was
molested, I thought - God sees clear-through people. He knows us thoroughly. He
doesn’t see us as adults who should know better, He sees the wounded child within.
Christians don't condone Ted's sin. But we can’t help thinking of the woman caught in the act of adultery - how humiliated
she must have been – men circling her, getting ready to stone her. Then Jesus
came along. (John 8)
“What do you
say her punishment should be?” asked the stoners.
Jesus took his sweet time
answering. The woman waited in fear. The men gathered more stones.
Finally, Jesus said, “I say that
the person among you who has never committed a sin should be the first one to
cast a stone at her."
to the ground as first the older men and then the younger remembered their
Only Jesus and
the woman remained.
accusers have left,” she whispered.
at her and said, “It’s time for you to go home too - but no more adultery.”
And that’s how
it is for Ted Haggard. He’s back home. No more betraying his God, or his wife.
(She hopes. We hope. And God hopes.) Not surprisingly, the media
ridiculed Gayle for “standing by her man.”
live in darkness are often blinded by grace.
“Ted gave me the gift of repentasce, and he chose, as I did, to heal our
marriage. I know that not all men choose to do that.” She encourages people, as
much as they are able, to forgive and love those who have sinned againt them.
This is Christ’s path.
Not every sinner accepts forgiveness. Some will forsake their God, their
spouses and their families. For these situations, there can still be healing
for the wounded ones left behind but not healing for the relationship, not in the present at
least. Reconciliation takes two.
taught me that I must be slow, very slow, to give up on people, eager to
forgive and always hopeful for a better life for those who stray from God. I’ve
strayed myself. And I must never forget that. When I do forget it, I’m no
better than the self-righteous stoners.
allowances for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you.
Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe
yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.”
a risky business. The end product isn’t always neat. And the process can be
painful. But Jesus has promised to support us from the beginning to the end of
the forgiveness journey.