by Paul Briggs
There are people in our lives we naturally expect will never disappoint us. Whether because of a commitment they have made or a belief they espouse or a position they hold, there are certain people we expect will not fail us. Because of the fallen world we live in, this is not a realistic expectation, but it is how we tend to think nonetheless.
So when one of these people in our lives who we expect should never disappoint us actually does fail to meet our expectations, how should the follower of Jesus Christ process that failure? How should we respond to it? What should be the path forward for the ones disappointed by the actions of another?
I have never met Joshua Harris who is the author of six books. I have never read his best-selling book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, but know people who did. I did, however, recommend to a number of people that they read his book, Stop Dating the Church. I recommended it because after reading it, I thought that it had many worthwhile things to say about the importance of the church in the life of a follower of Jesus. I would stand by that recommendation. So earlier this week when I received several texts with links to news stories about what Joshua Harris himself was saying in the realm of social media, I was understandably saddened and disappointed.
USA Today’s headline read: “He wrote the Christian case against dating. Now he’s splitting from his wife and his faith.” The Fox News headline read: “Well-known Christian author, purity advocate renounces his faith: ‘I hope you can forgive me.’” CNN’s headline read: “Joshua Harris, a former pastor who wrote a relationship book, says his marriage is over and he is no longer a Christian.” These headlines resulted from the following posts on social media by Harris:
● On July 17, 2019 he announced the end of his 19-year marriage.
● On July 28, 2019 he announced that he had “...undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus.” Further on he said: “By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian.”
So how is the follower of Jesus Christ to react when they hear news like this?
Sadness. It is not something to be happy about or rejoice over (as much of the mass media seem to be doing). It is not even something to spend hours on the internet combing through all that has been written to find another salacious detail. While we don’t know (and don’t need to know) the details of the life of Joshua Harris and his wife, it is always a sad thing when “what...God has joined together,” (Matthew 19:6) man has decided to separate. The attack on the God-ordained institution of marriage is as fierce now as it ever has been and that is something to be sad about.
Sadder still is when “a massive shift” takes place in regard to a person’s faith in the Lord Jesus leading them to declare they are no longer identified with Christ and his people. I believe that the reaction of sadness should lead us to lament, a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Lamenting about the sinfulness of man’s hearts and the fallen world we live in leads the believer to affirmation of the One and Only who is always trustworthy! (Psalm 31:10-16)
Prayerfulness. In the Bible, leaders in the church directly ask those to whom they are writing for prayer. (2 Thessalonians 3:1, Hebrews 13:18). These passages of Scripture look ahead expectantly to:
- the word of the Lord [speeding] ahead and [being] honored; and
- [the leaders having] a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.
Many of us receive spiritual benefit from radio broadcasts, podcasts and books, and while we may not personally know these speakers and authors, we can (and should) commit to pray for them as they bless the church with the gifts and platform the Lord has granted to them. And while our platform may not be as large, as an elder writing this blog post, I would ask you to pray for me and the other elders of Kossuth Street Baptist Church in this way.
I would also encourage us to pray for the people who read the books written by Joshua Harris; whose lives were impacted by what he wrote. You may be one of them. Let’s pray that the disappointment that has come in this unexpected package will be used of the Lord as a catalyst for growth in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18); that they will be driven back to God’s word as the unchanging standard against which to measure their lives.
Thankfulness. Let’s be thankful for the honesty and clarity of the stated position of Joshua Harris, “I am not a Christian.” While we should be saddened that one who once proclaimed the amazing grace of God can no longer find evidence for this grace in his life, we can be thankful that the lines of identity are not being blurred and that he is no longer claiming to be a follower of Jesus Christ. This is a small comfort, but one for which we can be thankful (John 13:34-35, 1 Corinthians 13:6). As we thank God for this clarity of identity, let’s not forget to pray for Joshua Harris and his family; asking God to do the necessary work in their lives as only He is able to do.
Watchfulness. As followers of Jesus Christ, recognizing the daily spiritual battle we are engaged in is of utmost importance. Peter points us to that at the close of his first letter (1 Peter 5:8) As Peter says earlier in that letter (1:13) “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This is forward thinking; but this is alert, watchful thinking presently. This is necessary thinking for the believer who does not want to be tripped up by the enemy while we wait for that day yet to come when we will see Jesus! The exhortation to sober-minded living is repeated in 1 Timothy 4:5, Sober-minded and watchful living is preceded by humility of heart which understands that the human heart, left to itself, is full of pride. By God’s grace, the weeds of pride need to be addressed daily. (1 Peter 5:5-6; 1 John 5:21; 2 John 8)
Confidence. This past Sunday in our study of 1 John 4:1-6, Will Peycke concluded his sermon by pointing us to three specific takeaway application points: a) Be confident in the person of Jesus in the Bible; b) Be confident in the presence of Jesus in the believer; c) Be confident in the power of Jesus in the world. It was wonderful to have these three points freshly imprinted on my mind because of the faithful preaching of God’s word from the KSBC pulpit last Sunday morning when I began receiving the links to the news stories referenced earlier in this article. Praise God that our confidence is in the Person and the finished work of Jesus Christ! (Hebrews 10:22-25)
Joshua Harris is not the first church leader to walk away from his wife and the faith he previously professed, and sadly, won’t be the last (1 Timothy 3:1). As believers in Jesus Christ, the object of our faith and trust is NOT in our favorite radio preacher, church leader or book author. It is in the One who is Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11), the One who is the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), the Lord Jesus Christ. In these days where we will see people (even gifted people with a platform that reaches vast numbers of people) doing what we never expected them to do or espousing views that are counter to what is found in the Bible, let’s keep our eyes fixed and focused on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).