Hypocrite Exposed or Erring Brother?
I have lived in Roanoke for 4 years during which I have asked, "What is this ACC thing they talk about?" Soon I will be back in Mississippi where they observe the high, holy days called "Football season." One dare not commit the sacrilege of scheduling a wedding or even a funeral on the most holy days of the holy season, a football Saturday. We are moving to Oxford.
I have tried to be and Ole Miss fan. There is no doubt that the University of Mississippi is the flagship university in Mississippi. I admire Johnny Vaught and Archie and Eli Manning. I love my dear friends, Gerald and Bette Morgan (Gerald played at Ole Miss, coached Archie, and was a seminary classmate), and my daughter-in-law Neil (Jeremy's wife). And I am going to make a new effort to like Ole Miss since we are moving to Oxford.
The problem I have with Ole Miss is cultural. While I have some aristocrats in my family tree (Don Francisco Moreno and his descendants), I am basically a Florida Cracker, which is close to being a Southern redneck. There is a an internal contradiction within me. My Daddy was and brought me up to be both a Cracker and a Florida Gators fan. He lived back in the days when Florida State was a girls' school before they became the Creminoles. I am a Gator, which in the context of Florida is something like being an Ole Miss fan. I also was a Reformed University Ministries campus minster from 1977-84 at the University of Southern Mississippi which made me a fan a football team with a chip on its shoulder, especially in relation to Ole Miss. Lots of contradictions to live with.
I am going to make a new try at being an Ole Miss fan since we are moving to Oxford, MS, at the end of August and for the sake of daughter-in-law, Neil. I don't think I will ever be for Ole Miss against Florida, but perhaps I can pull for them in the annual Egg Bowl.
All of that is background so that I can comment on the situation of Hugh Freeze, the Ole Miss head coach, who just resigned because it was discovered that in January 2016 he had made a one minute phone call to an escort service. Apparently there were other issues discovered as the the Chancellor and Athletic Director have said that Freeze, had he not resigned, would have been fired for moral turpitude.
Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson Clarion Ledger expresses the view of many:
But that’s not the story right now, nor is it entirely about Freeze’s indiscretions. They’re unbecoming, shameful and absolutely a fire-able offense. Freeze also has a wife and three teenage daughters, and they’re going to get the worst end of things as that last name is dragged through the mud and made into a joke. He earned it, not them, and not just by his misbehavior but by holding himself up as something more than a football coach. No man is without sin, but when you strut about as if you are then people will delight in the fall.My question is, "How should Christians think about the downfall of Hugh Freeze?" The "hyper-grace boys" will say, "No big deal. We're all screwed up and do bad things, but God's grace to us in Christ is greater than all our screwed-up-ness and sins. Don't flagellate your self about this, Brother Hugh." The "obedience boys" will say, "We are not surprised. There are many hypocrites who profess Christ ("Lord, Lord..."). Some of them are exposed in this world; more will be exposed on the Day of Judgment. Hugh Freeze is among those who are exposed in this world. Freeze needs to be saved."
You may hear some Christians say, "There but for the grace of God go I," but the way they say it seems to have more in common with "God, I thank thee that I am not like other men." The tendency of the human heart is to say to itself, "I am a sinner, but at least I am not as bad as Hugh Freeze." One of the reasons I am an an Anglican is because I saw just such a spirit among Presbyterians. For this reason and others, though I have much in common with Presbyterians, I will not go back among them.
So, here is how I respond, as one who is not yet an Ole Miss fan:
(1) I will remember that I am a sinner no less than Hugh Freeze - or King David or the Apostle Peter. I mean, seriously, really that bad. I truly belong in that group, not the group of "real" Christians who are not like Hugh Freeze. I say that not because I am trying to be humble, but because it is the truth.
(2) I will grieve for Hugh Freeze, his wife, and his three teenage daughters. All of them deserve our compassion, especially the wife and daughters, who have done nothing to be treated as social and spiritual pariahs. But Hugh Freeze also deserves our Christian compassion.
(3) I will regard Hugh Freeze as a Christian brother who has fallen, not as a hypocrite. Perhaps as time passes he will be exposed as a fake - a hypocrite who is not a Christian but has pretended to be one. But, perhaps what will be revealed that he is that he is a struggling Christian, not the man he was thought to be, or portrayed himself as, and perhaps not the man he thought himself to be, but a Christian who has struggled with sexual sin.
(4) I will wish that it it were easier among us Christians for us to confess our sins. It is not easier, not because the church is not a community of sinners, but because the ethos of the church leads to "hiding" of our sins, to pretending we are better than we are, and to having a public persona that does not correspond to reality.
(5) I will continue to think that sexual sins are very bad sins, but I will also continue to wonder why we deal with sexual sin as we do not deal with others. It is almost more easy in conservative churches to be found to be a murderer than an adulterer or some other kind of sexual sinner. Why do we tolerate malice, envy, gossip, jealousy, running down the reputations of others, attachment to material goods, and other sins, when we come down fast and hard on sexual sins?
(6) I will encourage myself and other Christians simply to be Christians by character and and conduct, and not to make a big deal of it. If you're a coach and concerned about the spiritual welfare of your players, then be concerned about their spiritual welfare but don't announce it. Christians need to do a lot more "being" (including being honest about their sinfulness) and a lot less "talking" and "advertising." This is especially important if you have a public position and are honest with yourself about your sins.
(7) I will continue to ask, What is the church? A hospital for sinners or an exclusive club for the righteous?
Just one more word: