I saw this morning on Fox News that popular author Joshua Harris is getting a divorce, renouncing his faith in Jesus, and embracing the LGBTQ community in a social media post. The comments from Christians might be the most shocking as many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are taking the news rather hard. They see this as a loss in the culture war but, on a deeper level, as an abandonment of leadership.
As difficult as it is for Christians to understand, people fall away. It is the most tragic of circumstances to abandon the faith, but a reading of Hebrews reveals it is also inevitable for some. Jesus had twelve close personal friends in the disciples. One betrayed Him, one denied Him thrice, and all of them fled when He was taken to be crucified. Eleven were restored and forgiven, but one was still Judas Iscariot, the traitor who gave away our Lord’s location for thirty pieces of silver—a paltry sum.
People will often say things like, “Well, Shawn, that was Judas,” as if Jesus let him hang around for the sole purpose of his role in the Passion story. But how many of you can point to the verse in Luke 10 when Jesus sent out the seventy and the other disciples said that Judas could not do the miracles? The reason the verses are not there is that Judas had the faith and the anointing to do the miracles. At that point, he was the same as Peter, John, James, and the rest.
Or what about when many people forsook Jesus over His comments about eating His body and drinking His blood. Do you realize Judas as one of the ones who stayed? He was one of the faithful few at that point, opting not to even follow the crowd. Judas was the disciple that was trusted to hold the group’s money. When Jesus announced that someone would betray Him, the rest of the disciples did not say, “Is it Judas?” They said, “Is it I?” The rest of the disciples trusted Judas more than they trusted themselves.
“Well, what is your point, Shawn?” I am glad you asked. Even Jesus had a traitor in His camp for three and a half years, so why as His servants should we think we are greater than our Master? Some of the ones we think are the most spiritual and closest to the Lord are going to turn out to be traitors to the Kingdom. It is simple. Identify them, if we can. Weep for them. But know that the enemy will keep holding out enticements, and some people will forsake the Lord and all of eternity for a few temporary baubles or the praise of men or whatever attracts them. Some of them will not be revealed until eternity when Jesus says, “Depart from Me, for I never knew you.”
I am not Joshua Harris’s judge, but let’s look at some facts. Mr. Harris came to prominence in the church because he wrote a counterculture book against dating and in favor of courtship. The book was pro-purity and pro-Christian in tone and theme. However, there is nothing inherently evil about dating or overtly holy about courtship. Both processes can be used for wickedness in the world or as a vehicle for pure relationships in the church. However, because dating was portrayed on popular TVs and movies at the time as a way to jump from one bed to another without remorse or consequence, Christians embraced the idea of courtship as a way for couples to meet and possibly marry.
It was all very innocent, and the idea of a step back from the Hollywood abyss was welcomed in many Christian circles. However, courtship was the model of relationships for hundreds of years in some of the most decadent and lascivious royal courts of the middle ages and Renaissance; in fact, there are now shows on TV portraying how wicked that system was. My point is dating, courtship, arranged marriages, or any other system is not in and of itself a Christian process. Any model that rejects purity is unChristian, and any model that follows the Lord’s instructions on marriage is good.
The reason Joshua Harris’s fall is so hard for some is because churches have become the places of celebrities and supporting the right causes. Mr. Harris was a young, good-looking twenty-three-year-old at the time of his writings on courtship. His parents were leaders in the homeschooling movement, so he even had the proper pedigree. Because nothing says Christian quite like courtship and homeschooling in political circles.
The problem is that being a Christian (a believer in Jesus) and citizen of the Kingdom (receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit) has really nothing to do with courtship beliefs, homeschooling, or even the purity of your life prior to salvation. In other words, you can be a whitewashed tomb just like the Pharisees with all the right connections and beliefs and miss when Jesus is standing right in front of you. Believe this or not that many will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven having been educated in the public schools and with a history of dating before marriage.
Paul addressed this issue with Timothy. The old, wise apostle said, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22, ESV). Paul was acknowledging the same phenomenon Jesus spoke about in Matthew 13:3-8 when he told the parable of the sower. There are only four results for seed (the Word): falls on the path and is eaten (demonic interference), springs up in rocky soil (no depth of root because it is blocked by other beliefs), spings up in thorns (too many other cares in life), and falls on good ground (believers). The two seeds which sprung up into full-sized plants but wither quickly because of rocky soil or choking out by thorns were initially good-looking, healthy plants. Sometimes, people start strong but lack a root or have too many other cares that are more important to them. We need to identify these folks before we make them leaders.
Joshua Harris made some good points about the lack of purity in the dating culture of America, which has sadly devolved further into the social media hook-up culture. But before we made him a spokesperson for us all, perhaps we should have asked him about his views on salvation? How was his quiet time with the Lord every day? Had he received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? Did he know and follow the laws of the Kingdom? What was he sowing into his own life to reap later? But we didn’t do that. We stuck him out front because he was a good kid from a good family who wrote a bestseller. The problem is that out front is where the arrows are flying in from the enemy. The battle is the hottest, and the enemy loves to discourage us all by taking out a leader.
I hope it is not so, but we appear to have a Hebrews, chapter six situation by Mr. Harris’s own admission. I just wonder if his current fall from grace could have been avoided if those wise men of the church at the time had said, “Good points about the problems with dating, kid. How is your relationship with the Lord? What do you know of the Kingdom of God?” before we made him a spokesperson and leader.
If the Lord gifts somebody with wisdom and leadership, He will not be angry if we prove them and not let them speak for the group immediately. 1 Timothy 5:22 (above) is His command, so I do not think we will offend our God by following it.
Featured Image by Vincent Delegge