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TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I’d like to take you to a story out of the Chicago Tribune. As we all know, Matt Lauer was fired from NBC after an employee filed a complaint about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.
Matt Lauer hosted NBC’s “Today Show” for two decades. He was a staple of millions of people as he opened their day with him giving them the news.
“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation they have behaved badly?” asked Lauer’s “Today” co-host, Savannah Gutherie. “I don’t know the answer to that,” she said, “but I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important. It’s long overdue and it must result in workplaces where all women, all people feel safe and respected.”
Gutherie’s voice shook slightly as she delivered the news last Wednesday. Harry, let me ask you, how do you reconcile your love or affection for someone with the revelation that he or she has behaved badly?
DR. REEDER: I’m going to say something, Tom, that I hope people will be patient with me because they’re going to say that the analogy doesn’t hold, but I would really ask them to think through it. The question that Ms. Gutherie, I think very poignantly asked, you love somebody but they behaved badly. What in the world do you do?
Tom, every parent faces that. I love my children and then they behave badly. Some of the behavior is worse than others, but they behaved badly. What do you do? And how do you respond to that?
There’s a Biblical principle that the theologians call “analogia de fide,” study principles by faith. In other words, we believe the Word of God is inspired, inherent, infallible and never contradicts itself. So if I’m in a difficult text, what do I do to understand the difficult text?
Well, you go to a text less difficult to understand that deals with the same issues, knowing that whatever it says can’t be contradicted by the difficult text. So you go to the more clear in order to understand the more obtuse.
Make a way for redemption
Here is a situation where, I would say, when you’re faced with this in the culture, back up. There are three spheres we live in: the Sovereignty of the Family, the Sovereignty of the State, and the Sovereignty of the Church. What do you in the Church and what do you do in the family?
Well, you do not tolerate the behavior, you discipline it. But you always make a way of redemption. And that way of redemption that you lay out for your children so that:
a) Your status can be recovered, and there is a way for your behavior to change — change of behavior and change of status.
b.) That does not mean there aren’t immediate consequences either legally or physically or socially or economically. Yes, the bad behavior has consequences, but there is a way of redemption. You do that with your children, you do that in the Church. In the Church we have a discipline committee. If someone commits egregious sins, we go and try to win them. Mathew 18 says, “Go to your brother to win them. If they don’t listen, take one or two spiritual people with you.”
c.) The third thing to do is you bring it to the elders of the Church and then they can go through a process of discipline. And everything’s there not to punish, but to win. Even though the behavior that’s being dealt with is not going to be tolerated, the person becomes the object of addressing the consequences and a way of redemption is established.
You do that in a family, you do that in a church, now how do you do that in the State? This is why it’s so crucial for us to have the free practice of religion in our country. The State’s job is not to rehabilitate Matt Lauer.
The State’s job is to say, “this behavior is not tolerated in the workplace and here are the consequences. But as the State, we protect the family and the Church who can come to you with a way of redemption.”
Now let me tell you that wonderful way of redemption, and that wonderful way of redemption is Jesus Christ who calls you to confess, own your sin; to repent and believe and put your trust in Christ who pays for your sins. And then by His Spirit at work within your spirit, He begins to do a work to change the behavior.
And, in fact, God’s work of Grace that not only restores us to a right status with Him when we confess our sins, but also changes us and we do deeds appropriate to repentance and it actually changes the behavior so much so, that in the Bible, the places where people have the most egregious sins become the greatest strengths in their life.
God can heal
Tom, one time I had a very bad break in my arm when I played baseball. It was a very painful setting, I’ll never forget that. And I remember the doctor telling my dad and my mom and my hearing, “I cannot promise you that Ike, that was my nickname, that Ike is not going to break his arm, again. He’s a very active boy in sports, so he very well may break an arm or something else, again. But I can tell you this, he won’t break it here.”
In other words, where it knit together will be stronger than any other place in the arm. So we see a religious terrorist, like Paul, become a church planter. We see Peter, who fails Jesus three different times in being faithful, yet repents and becomes a stalwart leader in the Church, even willing to die a martyr’s death at the end of his life.
We see Elijah, who ran in cowardice, become the brave prophet of the Lord to the Court. Constantly in the Bible, you see Moses who was guilty of manslaughter who became the great leader of the People of God in the Exodus. David and how God works in his life. The prodigal son who gets restored because the father is there to meet him.
You see, what you and I are grappling with, God has already grappled with. He made us and He loves us, Tom, but He will not abide by our sin, nor does He simply tolerate us as sinners. He judges our sin and then He brings a judgment upon our sin through His Son that creates a way for our redemption in Jesus Christ. And then He sends His Spirit to change our lives.
What you are grappling with with Matt Lauer, how do I now relate to someone who has done something so horrendous and has behaved so badly? Well, here’s what God does. God brings judgment upon the sin and God makes a way of redemption for the sinner.
There are consequences
How do we deal with a Matt Lauer? Here’s what the State does. The State doesn’t try to be the Church, but what the State does is protect the freedoms of the Church and the Family so they can come and bring the way back for a Matt Lauer to be restored in life, even though the consequences of the sins have to paid for in the reign and dominion of the State and its responsibilities.
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, when we consider repentance, restore, and being reconciled – those things don’t happen immediately. When a spouse finds out that, perhaps, their husband or wife has been unfaithful and their faced with horrendous decisions to make in the immediate phase, I would think, oftentimes there’s one of two choices: either I’m giving up on this marriage or immediately welcoming the spouse back in without facing the consequences of what’s been done.
DR. REEDER: Both of those are what you want to avoid. Even if you have Biblical grounds for divorce, divorce is never ultimately the answer. Divorce is there to protect the victim, and if you need to carry through the divorce, you carry through with the divorce. But I always tell people, even when you make the divorce, the story’s not over.
I remarried my dad and mom. The way that my mom and my sisters and I dealt with my father, God used that to bring him back and restored their marriage for 12 wonderful years after 15 years of divorce.
In terms of welcoming them back, you don’t just welcome someone back. They have to not only confess their sins with faith and repentance declaring their sins and owning their sin, but they also do deeds appropriate to repentance.
This isn’t penance; Jesus does the penance on the cross. The people need to demonstrate the reality and sincerity of their repentance. Trust is something you can lose. I can forgive someone, but I don’t yet trust them to put them back in the place that they were.
That doesn’t mean there’s not a way back one day in the future, but there are consequences to our sins that we can’t get all the way back to that previous position, but we can do deeds appropriate to repentance and God can create positions that will yet honor Him in life as we seek to grow in Grace and demonstrate the sincerity of our repentance.
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.