(Photo : Facebook/Duggar Family Official)
Picture every detail of your life flashed on the big screens and splashed on every magazine cover. Every action you did in plain view and every feeling and emotion you had up for scrutiny by any passerby. What would it look like? How would you feel?
Mixed feelings. Apprehension. Guilt. Shame. Regret. If any of those popped to mind, know that you’re not alone. Like it or not, each one of us have our fair share of bright and dark patches. For the latter, we probably wish we could erase or hide those parts away permanently. The good news for most of us is that we’d probably never have to worry about others knowing about those parts as long as we hide them well enough, or the law doesn’t ever find us out.
But sometimes, certain mistakes do come back to haunt and torment us. For 27-year-old Josh Duggar, the eldest of 19 children on the American reality television show “19 Kids and Counting”, it was a dark secret from more than a decade ago that came to light in the form of a 2006 police report which stated that he had molested five girls (which included some of his sisters) when he was between 14 to 15 years of age. The revelation in May had the television network, sponsors and members of the public up in arms and the show—which has been cable channel TLC’s most popular show since 2008—suspended. Responding to the revelations, Josh apologized and resigned from his position at the Family Research Council.
Josh’s public apology:
Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counselling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.
“Inexcusable” and “unforgivable”?
While some have chosen to stand by the family, a fair number are still incensed. For a man who belonged to a devout Christian family known for espousing values of purity and faith in God, this was despicable, sick and unforgivable. As one American presenter on CNN put it, “Most things are forgivable in the American conscience. Child molestation is just not.” And even though the Duggar parents and two of Josh’s sisters, who were victims themselves, have come out to say that he has asked for their forgiveness and they have forgiven him, majority of online netizens haven’t been as forgiving. And it’s easy to understand why, one reason being that the deadline for filing a lawsuit has passed which means Josh can escape charges and essentially, go scot-free.
But let’s go back to the original scenario painted at the start of this piece. How much better would we fare if every dark and salacious thought or deed we’ve done is thrust into the limelight? If the tables were turned, how would others respond to us? Would being in a position like Josh change the way we respond to others who fall into similar predicaments?
If there is anything we can learn from the Duggar family crisis, it’s that nobody’s perfect. Just like everyone else, even the most devout Christian family on television is prone to mistakes and bad choices. As the family themselves put on their official Facebook account: “We pray that as people watch our lives they see that we are not a perfect family.”
So knowing that we are just as vulnerable to misdeeds, how should we, both as the observer as well as the (potential) offender, respond?
The biblical account of an adulterous woman being brought before Jesus by a group of teachers of the law and Pharisees may come to mind (John 8:1-11). She had clearly broken the law, and the punishment stipulated for such an act was stoning. But Jesus’ response was mind-boggling and completely unexpected: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (v.7).
Not only did He not pronounce judgment on the woman, He shone the spotlight on her accusers instead. Sure, go ahead and throw the stone if you haven’t committed any sin in your life. Needless to say, everyone knew better and eventually left the scene. Soon it was just Jesus and the woman left. We then see a beautiful picture of mercy and compassion as Jesus tells her that He does not condemn her and instructs her to leave her life of sin.
In every respect, she was deserving of the punishment. And yet, the only one who was in the position to judge her forgave her instead and told her to stop sinning. She got away scot-free. And that’s exactly what He did for each of us. But by no means does Jesus’ forgiveness downplay the severity of sin—our sins bear the consequence of death. But He died in our place so that we wouldn’t need to bear the punishment for our sins. And He forgave.
So as we continue to thank God for dying in our place, let’s be more gracious and merciful towards one another. Sure, let’s continue to be quick to speak the truth in love. But let’s be just as quick to extend forgiveness and support to those who are truly repentant and ask for our forgiveness.
And as offenders ourselves, let’s strive to leave our lives of sin.