Have the courage to apologize

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

So yesterday news broke about yet more unethical behavior from a celebrity pastor, this time buying his way onto The New York Times bestseller list.

There is so much wrong with this kind of behavior that I don’t even know where to begin. Frankly, I’m not sure I could say it any better than has been said here. But since reading about this latest in a series of life lessons on the dangers of unchecked hubris, there’s been one thing I’ve felt I’ve needed to say:

If you’ve done this, have the courage to apologize. 

Look, I know none of us are perfect. Anyone who says they’re without sin is a liar and a fool, and I am chief among them. But you know what I do expect? I expect that if we’re people who claim the name of Christ, we’re people who apologize and mean it.

What do I mean when I say we “mean it”? Simple: we’re genuinely repentant.

So a true apology is not immediately pleading Jesus, saying how thankful you are that He’s forgiven all your sins, past present and future. That’s spiritual and emotional manipulation, not asking for forgiveness. And it’s not a political non-apology, something akin to “mistakes were made.” That’s acknowledgement, not contrition.

What I mean when I say apologize is simple:

  • specifically name your action or attitude
  • own your personal error
  • explain how you are making restitution
  • ask for forgiveness

But all of this, of course, hinges on a critical truth: you have to actually think what you’ve done is wrong.

My fear for many who engage in shenanigans of this sort is they really don’t care. As much as they want to say they’re trying to boost the name of Jesus, they’re really out for themselves. They’ve traded integrity for influence. So the ends justify the means (even when the means are wrong). Their consciences may be so seared that that they’ve become blind to their own folly. They are like those leaders who sat in Moses’ seat, whom Jesus commanded the Jews to listen to but not imitate, for they do not practice what they preach.

They talk a good game, but it’s all talk.

“What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

Your integrity is worth more than your celebrity.

Your ministry is more important than your influence.

Your reward with Christ is better than the riches of this world.

If you are truly in Christ, you know this to be true. Now act like it. Have the courage to apologize.

You Can Ignore a Great Ethicist


I’ve been reading Eric Metaxas’ excellent new biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and was struck by the following:

One admires Christ according to aesthetic categories as an aesthetic genius, calls him the greatest ethicist; one admires his going to his death as a heroic sacrifice for his ideas.

Only one thing one doesn’t do:

One doesn’t take him seriously.

That is, one doesn’t bring the center of his or her own life into contact with the claim of Christ to speak the revelation of God and to be that revelation.

One maintains a distance between himself or herself and the word of Christ, and allows no serious encounter to take place.

I can doubtless live with or without Jesus as a religious genius, as an ethicist, as a gentleman—just as, after all, I can also live without Plato or Kant. . . .

Should, however, there be something in Christ that claims my life entirely with the full seriousness that here God himself speaks and if the word of God once became present only in Christ, then Christ has not only relative but absolute, urgent significance for me. . . .

Understanding Christ means taking Christ seriously. Understanding this claim means taking seriously his absolute claim on our commitment.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, p. 82-83, quoting Bonhoeffer’s 1928 lecture “Jesus Christ and the Essence of Christianity”

Powerful stuff, isn’t it?

Whenever I read the stories of men and women who have come before us, like Bonhoeffer, I’m amazed at the reality that our issues never really change.

Today it’s fashionable to look to Rabbi Jesus, fix our eyes His ethical teaching and and have faith in ourselves that we can live the way Jesus lived, but deny what He taught about Himself.

Despite our posturing of wanting to “live Christ,” I wonder if the root issue is that we don’t actually want to take Jesus at His word.

We don’t want to take Him seriously.

Because if we did—if He really meant it when He said He was God—then it changes everything.

It changes how we live, to be sure, but it changes who we are. Our thought processes, motivations, desires… all of it.

A great ethical teacher can’t do that. Even the greatest ethical teacher can be ignored.

But you can’t ignore God.

Book Review: Different Eyes by Steve Chalke and Alan Mann


Title: Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully
Authors: Steve Chalke and Alan Mann
Publisher: Zondervan

As the world’s morality and ethics grow increasingly “gray,” Christians need to know how to respond to moral dilemmas in a way that reflects Christ to the world. To be “salt and light,” as it were. But how do we do it when there seem to be so many issues that the Bible doesn’t speak explicitly about?

“How do those who follow Jesus live distinctly in a time of uncertainty?” ask Steve Chalke & Alan Mann in their new book, Different Eyes: The Art of Living Beautifully.

A Worthy Attempt…

The big idea behind the book is important. Christians need to know how to interact on a moral/ethical level with the world around us in a way that reflects Jesus. From what I can see, Chalke & Mann don’t want people to simply read their book, but engage with it. To actually try to put Christian ethics into practice. As they rightly say, “Our faith may be personal, but it can never be private” (p. 102).

This is an important point because it is essential that Christians think and act Christianly within our spheres of influence. When we fail to do so, we fail to be salt and light in the world. The discussion questions on four selected topics are also useful for thinking through the reasons why we believe what we believe about issues of homosexuality, war, euthanasia and the use of wealth.

Where we start running into problems is when we start seeing everything as being potentially gray, forgetting that where the Bible is clear, we must be as well.

…That “Misses the Mark”

Honestly, I found this book to be a mess. Throughout there’s a relatively low-view of Scripture presented that simultaneously affirms its truth as a narrative, but suggests that many of its commands are not binding. “The Bible is first and foremost a story-based moral vision rather than a list of universal rules,” Chalke & Mann write. “Believing that the whole of life is somehow covered by the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament Law is even more unrealistic than it is optimistic” (p. 38). [Read more...]