Ted Haggard in Newsweek

This article on Ted Haggard made me very sad. I deliberately try to avoid current controversies on this blog and have no desire to debate and/or discuss Ted Haggard as an individual. I think our response to him as a larger Body of Christ is simply to love him and his family in ways that are consistent with I Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4. Part of that is that we who do not know him or his family keep our mouths shut about his situation.

But he said something in this article that struck me on a deeper level that has little to do with him personally. He mentioned his estrangement from the church where he had pastored for years, and though he can see it from the windows of his house, he and his family now don’t attend church anywhere. And that is just plain sad.

The Haggard family is just one of many families who have similar stories. Some might say this is his former church’s fault. Some might say it’s the Haggard’s fault. It’s definitely the church’s fault. But who is the church? It’s not church membership or denominational status. It’s not the building or the programs. When the Apostle Paul presents the church in Ephesians, he is simply talking about all those who are IN CHRIST as he has described in Ephesians 1-3. The church is the people—not the building, the programs, the denominational bylaws, or the membership roles.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Eph. 4: 4-6

Here it is the great summary of why we all must eagerly pursue unity (Ephesians 4:1-3) with other believers despite all the dysfunction most of us have witnessed in our church experience—because there is only ONE Body. Paul is talking about the Body of Christ, which is made up of all those Christ has reconciled to Himself—i. e. the Church. You and I have an obligation that extends well beyond the boundaries of our particular “church”. We have an organic union to all those who are in Christ no matter where or when they lived. All believers, past, present, and future make up one Body. And the ramifications of Paul’s point here are extensive.

The church is a whore. That’s a bold statement, and yet the Scriptures teach this pretty clearly. Consider the book of Hosea. By God’s own order, Hosea marries the harlot Gomer and has a child with her. She then has two other children with different men. Hosea receives her and her children despite her adultery. Eventually Gomer leaves him again, returns to harlotry, and eventually becomes a slave. Hosea buys her back in public auction and brings her back home, not as his slave, but again as his wife. And God uses Hosea’s life story as a picture of his pursuit of his own people.

God’s people have broken their covenant with him throughout history. But God has relentlessly pursued his church (both individually and corporately), not because of her beauty or worthiness, but for His own glory. As Paul said in Ephesians 1, God has lavished his love on us to the praise of his glorious grace. He is sanctifying the church, rooting out her sin and transforming her into the beautiful bride that he will present to Jesus at the marriage supper of the lamb in Revelations.

God is doing a beautiful thing in and through his people. The church will one day be presented spotless before God. But she’s certainly not there yet. The church is a mess. This should make sense to us since She’s made up completely of individuals who are all messes. The problem with the church is that you and I are in it! Each of us in Jesus’ Body were by nature children deserving of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2). Each of us has no righteousness to offer God on our own. Each of us was saved by God’s grace and not our good works which Isaiah likened to filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It’s really important that we have a Biblically informed understanding of just who exactly the Body of Christ, the Church, is. If we don’t, we are going to be disappointed and disillusioned by Her, likely to the point that we give up on the whole idea altogether.

However, if we understand the Church, both the good and the bad, as Scripture presents her, then when she fails us, we understand that this is just her nature. And we fight for unity in her anyway, because we know she is Jesus’ Body. There’s a great line from a song by Derek Webb in which he sings as Christ would about his church. “You can not live for me with no regard for her. If you love me you will love my church.”

It’s his Body. You can’t say to Jesus, “I like your Head, but your Body I can’t handle.” It’s his BODY bought with His own blood! God chose this picture to communicate to us something deep and beautiful about his people. We are one with each other and one with Christ. Therefore, we HAVE to deal with the Church. We cannot cut ourselves off from her and expect a healthy relationship with Christ. It’s all one glorious, supernatural entity. To believe the gospel means that we are in Christ. And to be in Christ means that we are supernaturally connected to his Body. Therefore, to reflect well on the gospel, we must diligently pursue unity with his Body for we are ONE.

But having that core conviction (which I do) and figuring out what it looks like in practice is hard. I think this must start with reconciliation and restoration among individuals in the Church before it ever moves to the corporate structure. So I am meditating on how to diligently pursue unity one on one first. Paul gives us a nice outline in Ephesians 4:1-3. I’ll write on that another time.

I hope that the Haggards are able to find community in the church, in the purest sense of the term.

4 Responses to Ted Haggard in Newsweek

  1. Kim January 14, 2009 at 7:23 pm #

    I wondered when I read the article if there might be more to the story. Apparently, Mr. Haggard agreed to a series of oversights under key leaders during his recovery. After a short while, he asked to leave the church’s oversight and to quit the recovery process with them. I’ll post one of the many links to this story that appeared in February 2008. It changes things for me that he quit them. The Newsweek article makes it appear that he wants nothing more than to be an active part of the church…when the truth may be that he left them instead.See what you think…http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/15228215/detail.html

  2. Kim January 14, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    I’m thinking you can’t see the entire article link…let’s try this:http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/ 15228215/detail.html

  3. Wendy January 14, 2009 at 8:15 pm #

    Thanks for commenting Kim. I feel a strong conviction that there is much more to this story that is none of my business and that would be sin for me to discuss on this blog. Perhaps someone from their old church pursues them regularly with hope for reconciliation. My experience is that is not usually the case. In most church conflict, both sides give up trying to reconcile. The exception is for one party to diligently continue pursuing unity even though they are rebuffed. Thank God He didn’t give up on us though we resisted and rebuffed His pursuit of us. My overall point is that all parties in the Body of Christ in any conflict should be humbly pursuing unity as opposed to writing others off. Biblically both sides of any conflict are called to pursue unity. At the same time, I understand there are complexities to any situation that require the Spirit, the Word, and Biblical love to navigate. I wouldn’t presume to speak specifically to this case–I don’t know the details, nor should I.

  4. kellycowan January 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm #

    i like that description of organic union with all believers. that is a good picture. and also i really love that whole derek webb cd and it helped me over the years really see myself as the whore that who puts christ on like a wedding dress to run down the asile to him. crazy true and humbling. i’m enjoying having a link to your blog. keep it up!