“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?” – Savannah Guthrie
This morning the news broke that Matt Lauer of NBC’s Today Show is the latest public figure to lose his job and reputation over accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior. Announcing this news fell to his on-air partner Savannah Guthrie. In the Video you can see how emotional this announcement is for her. At one point she makes the statement, “We are grappling with a dilemma that so many people have faced these past few weeks: How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly, and I don’t know the answer to that.”
How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? As Christians we have a ready answer to this question.
First, we should not be surprised that “good” people behave badly. Our culture has this twisted view of human nature that believes all people are basically good and that occasionally they just go bad for various reasons. Believing that is nice, but it just isn’t true. God reveals that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It’s hard not to be surprised and shocked when people we love and trust disappoint us and fall short of our expectations of them. But as the dust settles, as Christians we must confess, and confess clearly, that we are all sinful and in need of God’s mercy. None of us is above reproach.
Second, we can’t excuse horrible behavior simply because we love the person. This has happened far too often. In the past, Bill Clinton and many other powerful men received pass after pass for their inexcusable treatment of women because of who they were and the power they wielded. This cannot continue. It is possible to love someone and to still be disgusted with the choices that they make. It is possible to love someone and still hold them accountable for their actions. But when sins are overlooked or swept under the rug it compounds the hurt of the person who was sinned against. And it also hurts the offender. Giving them a pass takes away an opportunity that they would otherwise have to be confronted with their own sinfulness and repent of it.
Third, in our righteous desire for justice we can’t simply shun the offender. This might be a really tempting knee-jerk reaction, but as Christians we are called to something better. There must be real consequences for these types of behaviors. They should be severe. People have to understand that harassment won’t be tolerated just because you are rich or famous or you know the right people or you are a Democrat or you are a Republican. But as Christians we aren’t called to shun those caught in sin. We are to encourage them to confess their sins and receive forgiveness. Paul writes in Galatians, “Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).
Fourth, know that forgiveness and reconciliation should be the goal we are all working toward. When these sorts of news stories break it can be very tempting to sit back a little bit and smugly think, “Boy, am I glad I’m not like that guy.” But that sort of attitude hides the truth that we all sin in countless ways every day. Sure, some of those sins are bigger than others this side of heaven, but they all separate us from God. In his first letter, the apostle John writes, “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Will this sort of forgiveness be easy? Not a chance. But it is when we seriously struggle with forgiving the seemingly unforgivable that we catch a glimpse of what it cost God to forgive us.
“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?” As Christians we have a ready answer. We reconcile our love for them in the same way that God reconciled His love for us in spite of our bad behavior. God didn’t wait to approach us until after we had cleaned up our acts. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).