The Only Way Forward

So the news last week was that Josh Harris divorced and says he’s not a Christian anymore. I felt heavy hearted about it on several levels.

I want to weep at the vitriol, sarcasm, disdain, harshness toward him that rippled through social media. Sin is sin, yes, and divorce is a travesty. But is public contempt and expecting the worst of someone ever, ever, redemptive or bring the healing and repentance that Jesus asks for?

The Josh Harris news hit me hard because he’s my age. Which isn’t old, but it’s old enough to have done some good or some hurt. I love being my age but I often wish I’d done things differently. I’d like to retract the heavy-handed, glib things I said when I was in my 20’s. I cringe when I remember my inept ways of being dean and teaching at Calvary Bible School. I made stupid, thoughtless decisions that had to have hurt people who trusted me. I wish I could redo my first ESL lessons, because they were pathetic.

James is absolutely right when he writes that teachers will be judged more severely, and sometimes I wonder why anyone would choose to be an influencer.

And then I remember that everyone influences someone.

Some people have a louder voice or a bigger platform or more attractive words than others, but every time we open our mouths, we make some kind of impact on the ears around us.

Or on the eyes reading our blog. Or Facebook comment. Or the scorn in a conversation.

If we could see the knock-on effect our words have, I wonder if we would say less or more.

“I’m hungry for ice cream–let’s go to McDonalds!”

“That picture of the refugees made me cry.”

“How are things going for you?”

“He thinks he’s so cool.”

Words of passion and zeal and knowledge without wisdom are lethal. Truth without grace is a sledgehammer swung around without direction, volatile, harsh, dangerous. If we always have to be right, and always decry the latest scandal, and constantly shout truisms, we destroy the trust necessary to win an audience and make the difference we’re wanting.

That doesn’t mean we compromise truth. Jesus is full of truth and grace, and His people should reflect those qualities. If we don’t, something is seriously broken.

God’s Kingdom needs bold, winsome, confident, inviting words flung like confetti around the world. No one needs more hate, doubt, or hostility thrown at them.

One of my friends says that her husband prays every day to be humble and confident. I think that’s a posture that God would honor. We don’t have to be slinking around, doubting ourselves, making every disclaimer before we say something. The Holy Spirit said He would help us say the right thing at the right time. The problem isn’t that He doesn’t have the right words for us. The problem is that we aren’t always quiet enough to hear Him.

Josh Harris made some grave mistakes in his 40+ years.

I have too.

We all have.

Repenting and depending on Jesus with humility and confidence is the only way forward.

15 thoughts on “The Only Way Forward

  1. Thank you for this! This whole thing with Josh hit me hard too. Thank you for reminding me again that I’ve no stones to throw when I look back over my own life. We need to show compassion for others just as Christ showed us. I cannot imagine the fallout from his decisions but we all must face the consequences of our sin and it isn’t pretty. So thankful for the work if Christ who is my Redeemer!

  2. Amen, sister. We know it’s right to pray for redemption and restoration in this situation (and others), as well as the glorifying of God’s name..Only God knows the whole story. He knows what needs to happen for these things to take place, and can fill in the blanks in our prayers. LRM

  3. Yes, I could relate with your thoughts on Joshua Harris. Even though I hadn’t read him since I was about 19 years old (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), it feels like a travesty, and a personal one because of how he and the movement he was a part of influenced our communities.

    Even as my heart is full of compassion for him and his family, I understand the vitriol leveled at him. I’m upset at him. I’m upset at him for having a confident, influential voice and not speaking truth. I’m also angry at the ways that my community interpreted him and used his words as a weapon of shame and oppression.

    I don’t know if I have more words of insight, but rather many feelings of sympathy. I think about that verse in James all the time, last year especially, when I had difficult student relations and they memorized the entire book of James. 🙂

  4. This sentence particularly caught me: “Words of passion and zeal and knowledge without wisdom are lethal.” I think we both know I’m given to zealous, passionate words and intense feelings. 😉 So often, it’s worthwhile to pause.

    So many angles from which to think about Joshua Harris’s decisions, way back yonder and now. I can’t imagine the pressure of forming a life around one’s youthful words in print.

    • And we both know my strong, passionate words!
      Marlene, I hope you can read the post linked in an earlier comment here. It also addresses the huge pressure of saying so much so young.
      Of course, we all want explanation and reasons for why this happened so that we can avoid the same tragedy. I don’t want us to have grave, austere nodding heads sure of What Went Wrong so much as I want open hands, sensitive hearts, humility, and confidence.

  5. The news on Josh hit me pretty hard too. I grew up in the conservative homeschooling circles, and the Harris family (including his Dad n brothers) were all quite influential.

    My Mom has always said that Satan especially targets people who are in positions of influence. I don’t want to over simplify, but I expect that is a key point in his case as well.

    Thanks for the thought provoking words. Let’s pray for Josh and his family. I can only imagine how difficult this is for his family.

  6. Well said, Anita! Casting out the beam in our own eye, makes us see more clearly to compassionately whisk out the mote in our brother’s eye.

    • I really appreciate the tone you’ve set for this conversation, Anita. The following words from one of your responses in the comment thread above encapsulates the sentiment very well: “I want open hands, sensitive hearts, humility, and confidence.” One of the things that makes me sad is the sense that Joshua likely did not feel the freedom to be open about his questions. I sometimes wonder if an open display of “weak” faith and unashamedly running to Jesus with our doubts and fears isn’t more conducive to a walk of faith than valiant, confidant declarations (not that the latter are never needed). Yes, let’s keep reaching for and embracing the challenge of walking through the chaos of this era with sensitivity and compassion, sustained by the confidence that we belong to our Father, the one Who holds the universe together. “Lord, make us instruments of your peace!”

  7. Thank you for the clear cut vision that gives me pity for Josh, and helps me to see more clearer how close we all are to destroying ourselves and our reputation of/for God. May God help us! And save the the holiness of His name! And give repentance to those who attempt to destroy it. Thanks again for bringing clarity to that sad darkness.

  8. “God’s Kingdom needs bold, winsome, confident, inviting words flung like confetti around the world.” I love, love, love this sentence. You stated it well!

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