Temptation. This was our topic at our Lifetree Cafe outreach this week. The Lifetree film featured Ted Haggard and his fall into temptation. That was compelling in itself. But it got even more interesting.
The Lifetree audience heard how Haggard, former megachurch pastor and head of the National Association of Evangelicals, was exposed by Denver male prostitute Mike Jones. Then, the real surprise of the evening. In the middle of the room a man announced, “I am Mike Jones. THE Mike Jones.”
He was indeed the bodybuilder gay escort whom Haggard had hired. After each segment of the Haggard film, Jones added his own perspectives on this sad story of temptation, secrecy and betrayal.
As the hour unfolded I was nervous how the participants would react and respond to Jones. Would they sneer, scold and judge him? Actually, I was pleased with how the group responded. They listened respectfully and treated Jones with acceptance.
I may have lost some of you just now. Acceptance? Of a male prostitute? Shouldn’t we seize the opportunity to condemn this villain?
One of the things we learn to do every week at Lifetree Cafe is accept people of all kinds, who come from various backgrounds and behaviors. We’ve adopted the concept of acceptance, not endorsement. We can accept all people with the love of Christ–without needing to endorse everything they do. It’s really a Christlike approach, which he demonstrated with the woman caught in adultery and many others.
Author Doug Pollock does a nice job of explaining this “acceptance without endorsement” approach in his book “God Space.”
Many who need Christ have been driven away by judgmental and non-accepting Christians, who have confused acceptance with endorsement. We need to equip our church members, youth group members and children in how to accept others as Jesus did. Showing love, respect and compassion to a sinner does not extend an endorsement for everything that sinner has done.
At the conclusion of this week’s Lifetree hour, a Christian man approached Jones and curiously asked, “After everything that has happened with the Haggard thing, do you hate God?” Jones thought a moment, then said, “I’ve come to hate religion. But no, I don’t hate God.”