I’m making some assumptions here, but imagine that you were caught leading the secret life that Colorado Springs evangelist Ted Haggard has apparently been leading – buying meth from a gay masseuse/escort and allegedly employing him for other services as well. It would no doubt cause incredible shock and heartache for your family and friends. However, even if criminal charges were pressed, it would have to be a slow news day for the sordid details to warrant even a brief mention in the press.
Now imagine the same scenario, except that you are a public figure – an elected official, for instance, or a prominent civic or business leader. The story would make the news, it would be the source of water cooler conversation for a day or two, and it would likely cost you your career. But then some other scandal would erupt, and as long as you stayed out of the public eye, the public’s attention would turn elsewhere.
Now imagine that you’re Ted Haggard.
Or Jim Bakker.
Or Jimmy Swaggart.
Because of who they are, what they say, and whose work they claim to be doing, their sins make the news. They make the blogs. They become fodder for late-night comedians. Their dirty laundry is laid bare for the world to see, and it becomes ingrained in the public consciousness.
And how do we react? Christians, likely feeling a mixture of anger, embarrassment, and disillusionment, will squirm and try to distance themselves. Atheists will smugly use the salacious details as further ammunition for their assertion that all Christians are hypocrites.
And the atheists are right. All Christians are hypocrites. All people are hypocrites. But the atheists are wrong when they point to individual hypocritical Christians as the basis for invalidating all of Christianity. Fortunately, Christianity is not about Christians. Christianity is about Christ. And Jesus is the only One who has perfectly lived what He has preached. The rest of us, whether we stand behind a pulpit or not, are going to fall short. All of us – Christians and non-Christians alike – would do well to remember that.