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Disown, Defend or Neither? Matt Lauer and Talking about Sin

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Kathie Lee Gifford is the best preacher around…at least if handling the doctrine of sin is any measure. Sin, as a concept, is hard to talk about. Many pastors wrestle with how to unfold the doctrine of sin in a culturally relevant way that doesn’t play in to the all-too-familiar brimstoney caricature. Other pastors assume that faithfully talking about the doctrine of sin requires in-your-face offense.

Well, Kathie Lee just showed us how to talk about sin.

To Disown or Defend?

Newswoman, Savannah Guthrie, broke the news on Wednesday that Matt Lauer had been terminated from his position as an NBC Today show host due to allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace. It’s easy to know what to say about bad behavior when it comes from an overtly-perverted, preferably unfamiliar pig. Not many of us think that way about Matt Lauer. His long-time co-anchor, Savannah Guthrie, expressed the difficulty in trying to categorize her friend. When she broke the News on the Today Show, she stated,

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.[1]

“To disown or defend?” That is (typically) the question. Savannah, for the sake of love and justice, doesn’t want to choose. As always, there is a third way.

It can be wonderfully liberating to hear preaching about sin.

Kathie’s Clarification

Savannah may not have had an answer, but Kathie Lee sure did. During her hour of the Today Show, she reflected on her deceased husband’s infidelity and the news about Matt. She reconciled the revelation of bad behavior with her love for those badly behaved:

‘You question your own judgment. You say, “Was everything a lie?” And I think we have to fight against that.’

Of Lauer she said, ‘I texted him this morning and I said “I adore you”… And no person is perfect in this world… We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…[Romans 3:23]’

She said her thoughts were with the woman who accused Lauer as well as with Lauer and his family.

‘May God bless that family and heal,’ Gifford said. ‘I’m sorry Hoda, but in my long life, the only thing I’ve ever been sure of is that only God can heal. There’s no bad time to reach out for his help.’

She said she was praying over the tough incident and added she ‘didn’t mean to go to church but sometimes you’ve got to go to church.’

Gifford said the day was reminding her of how she handled now-deceased husband’s infidelity. She said she was able to forgive Frank Gifford at the advice of ‘a wonderful, wonderful man.’

‘He said “Kathie, if you can’t forgive your husband, forgive your children’s father. Same person.” We are all so broken, and we need somebody to put us back together, and it’s possible.”[2]

Without the category of indwelling sin (Romans 7:20), our only options are disown or defend. However, Romans 3:23 turns out to be a helpful answer to Savannah’s question.

Like Savannah and Kathie Lee, your friend might surprise you. Your child, sibling, coworker, parent, neighbor or spouse may be hiding something terrible at this very moment. When it comes to light will you grit your teeth and cut all ties, or dig your heels in and assert their goodness? Will you disown them or defend them? Want a third way? This is why it can be (dare I say?) wonderfully liberating to hear preaching about sin.

In a simplistic world that wants to label every person (even the badly-behaved ones you love) “angel” or “monster,” the Scriptures offer their typical, difficult, liberating nuance. The doctrine of sin allows us to distinguish the Adamic cancer that causes “bad behavior” from the image-bearer that carries it, and tells us that everyone carries it. And the gospel offers the hope that the two may be permanently separated.

The doctrine of sin allows us to reconcile love for friends, bad behavior, personal responsibility, justice, mercy and human dignity. And the gospel gives us a hope of restoration we can offer to the badly behaved, victims of bad behavior and friends of those who have behaved badly.

The good news is that ‘behaving badly’ need not define your sinful friend or your sinful spouse (or you). The sin is there. It is real and it is deep, but a person can be redeemed from it—even if there are still right and just consequences.

Dear Savannah, reconciling love for a friend with the revelation that they have behaved badly (i.e., sinned) need not leave us answerless. This is (but one way to offer) a culturally relevant, less-brimstoney, less-caricaturey exposition of the doctrine of sin.

Thanks, Kathie Lee.

[1] Transcript from: http://variety.com/2017/tv/news/savannah-guthrie-announces-matt-lauer-firing-video-1202625849/ (emphasis added)

[2] Transcript from: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/11/29/kathie-lee-gifford-praying-for-matt-lauer-after-today-show-firing.html

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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James Ford

James Ford is the is the operations director for Acts 29 North Atlantic. He is a husband to April, father of Gabriel, and a graduate of Southeastern (M.Div., Th.M.).

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