After falling hard in 2005, Haggard is slowly making his way back onto the American Christian scene. He started a new church, St. James Church in Colorado Springs, and produces video clips that air on YouTube. And now courtesy of Hollywood’s love for the moral edge, Haggard’s marriage, family and home will be part of the season premiere of “Celebrity Wife Swap.”
Wow. Why couldn’t they star in a home make-over show instead? Or on that show where you sell your storage container junk? That one would preach. But “Celebrity Wife Swap”? Never mind the buzz it creates among the those-Christians-are-crazy crowd. What about Christ’s call to a humble life?
I feel myself skating that thin line between discernment and judgment, so let’s remove the conversation from Haggard’s public choices. What I really want to ask is a question about the difference between receiving forgiveness and walking in it.
Christians believe in a God of Second Chances. Forgiveness is the centerpiece of our gospel. Forgiveness is what God offers through the cross. Repentance is our response. To repent means to turn away from something that offends God. There is more to it than just saying, “I did it.” It means shifting gears, making a genuine choice to practice life so that we (our whole selves) become an offering pleasing to God. We become no longer our own, but His. That thing we did becomes no longer ours but His.
For real repentance to happen, there has to be a willingness to let something go. There has to be a death to self. Humility (the primary personality trait of Jesus, and always characterized by self-sacrifice) is the fruit of genuine repentance. It is very much what Jesus meant when he advised his friends, “If anyone wants to be my follower, he must take up his cross and follow me.”
You see the point in Jesus’ story about the prodigal son. When the rebellious son first went to his father, he was bent on getting something for nothing. He said to his dad, “I don’t want to wait until you die. I want my share of the estate now.” Somehow he wanted to receive death benefits without death, but there is no shortcut. Even Jesus asked (remember? on the night before he died?) if it could be done any other way. The answer is no. In order for true forgiveness to happen something has to die. Jesus said (John 12:24), “I tell you the truth, unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” There is no shortcut to fruitfulness.
That’s what I’m waiting for in the stories I read about big-name Christians who get caught and admit wrong. I am looking for a spirit of Isaiah, or for a deeper understanding of Paul’s truth. Yes, we are free, but not free to do as we please. I’m looking for a death worthy of repentance.
I guess I’m looking for a little holy humility. I’m not convinced I’ll find it on “Celebrity Wife Swap.”