An Open Letter to Jerry Falwell, Jr., and the Rest of Us
Photo taken from WSLS website at https://www.wsls.com/topic/jerry_falwell_jr./
I have admittedly been very hard on Jerry Falwell, Jr. over the past year or so. For instance, Dr. Brian Melton and I went on the record with Julie Roys in September 2019 to expose Jerry's "culture of fear" at Liberty University (listen to the episode at https://julieroys.com/podcast/are-allegations-against-jerry-falwell-jr-true/). I've also written numerous blog articles in response to his various indiscretions, wherein I've pulled few punches. Examples include https://www.thecrockradio.com/post/darkness-you-can-feel, https://www.thecrockradio.com/post/give-me-liberty-and-give-me-death, and https://www.thecrockradio.com/post/the-risky-business-of-liberty-university. However, today I want to mount a "strategic halt" and offer a heartfelt olive branch.
You see, earlier this afternoon the Liberty University Board of Trustees took decisive action and asked Jerry Falwell, Jr. to take an "indefinite leave of absence" from his roles as president and chancellor of the university (see https://www.wsls.com/news/local/2020/08/07/jerry-falwell-jr-taking-indefinite-leave-of-absence-from-role-as-liberty-university-president/). This request came just days after a very questionable photograph and a thoroughly bizarre video were posted by Jerry to his Instagram account and then quickly deleted, though not before both went viral on the internet (see https://www.thecrockradio.com/post/black-water-blackface-dark-days-another-chapter-in-the-ongoing-saga-that-is-jerry-falwell-jr). To Jerry's credit, it seems he did not resist the Board's decision and has elected to step down with no contest. Bravo, Jerry! You have taken the first step in spiritual reconciliation, and I truly commend you for this action.
But now you must take Step 2. And Step 2 is the hardest of them all...repentance. Step 2 requires you not only to do the right thing, but it also seeks a change of heart...a turning away from your sin and a turning toward Christ. It means shedding your reliance upon self, position, power, money, fame, and desire, and putting on Christ. Romans 13:14 says, "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh" (NIV). You must put away what you want, and start asking God what He wants. You have the opportunity right now to change your life's trajectory...to move from self-indulgence and the things of this world and to begin living for something greater than yourself. And, brother, I truly want this for you. I want you to see victory in Jesus!
Now, lest anyone accuse me of harboring a self-righteous tone, let me be the first to say that I am a wretched sinner as well. I know I've messed up in my life...on countless occasions. Those closest to me know that I have my skeletons, some of which aren't even in a closet! But I also know I have given and continue to give these sins over to God every day, and I know I seek his power every time I am powerless, which is pretty much every minute of every day. So, my encouragement to our brother, Jerry, is simple: give control over to God.
And this is my prayer for all of us. Like Jerry, we all have our blind spots, our fleshly temptations, and our miserable failures. And, like him, these are sometimes laid bare in public or semi-public fashion, and we are called to account for them. The challenge for Jerry and the rest of us, though, is what do we do with the opportunities God gives us to own up to our sins? What do we do when our humanity is brought face-to-face with the righteousness of God? We have two basic options: fight or flight. That is to say, we can either contend with our sins or pretend they don't exist and simply run away. I hope Jerry chooses the former...and I hope you and I do as well.