Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Looking back at the Eddie Long scandal, the self-serving gag orders and the exorbitant out-of-court settlements that benefited him and him alone. The ridiculousness of his duplicitous mockery of the “David-Goliath” avowal and the five stones he never threw. I think it’s time we as the Body of Christ ask ourselves a few questions: Who did that serve? And who are we serving, the creator or the created?
Ensconced in the African American community there is a time-honored tradition of protection and unity. Although we are not the only culture that protects its endemic, it has been our churches, our hair salons and our barbershops, where we have felt the freedom to truly be ourselves. In those places we are surrounded by our own, accepted and redeemed. This tradition of protection has been a part of our unique legacy, an understanding without words, time-honored and true. But when tradition no matter how well intended stands in direct opposition to the righteousness of a Holy God it is no longer a blessing, it is a self-indulgent curse.
When the allegations against Bishop Eddie Long surfaced I chose not to write on the issue because allegations are by definition “assertions made with no proof”. I believed that he, as well as those young men, deserved their day in court. Yes, I was disturbed and found it suspect that Bishop Long never categorically denied the charges and that his address from the pulpit regarding the issue was nebulous at best. But as he said, “It will be tried in a court of justice”. So I waited patiently for “due process” to have its say.
And it did have its say, at the expense of the New Birth congregants and at the behest of the Bishop’s ego. Unlike Long promised, there was no court of justice, no day of reckoning…just lawyers, millions of dollars, and more silence.
What did I expect? Well I guess I expected what the situation called for from a man to whom God has given stewardship over a people; a transparent discussion of the allegations and a forthright answer to the question that was on everyone’s mind. Did you or did you not do the unconscionable? Because although abuse has become commonplace in our society, it is still unconscionable. I also expected a fight. Because when you are innocent and you have been charged with something as grotesque and shameful as the manipulation and flagrant sexual abuse of young people, you fight. You fight in defense of the sanctity of the church, the ministry of the gospel and the testimony of your character. Why would a man of God be comfortable accepting the moniker of such a heinous act? And believe me he did accept it. An agreement to mediation from the accused is legally a forfeiture of the right to ever claim innocence.
Although I was disgusted by his actions, it was the response of his sheep that I found most disturbing. “Let’s not judge… He still gives a good word”. “I’ve been a member for years, it’s going to take a lot more than this for me to leave my pastor”. Really?!... Are we so far gone that the standard of Christ takes a back seat to our familiar comfort.
Who are we serving?
Who are we serving when we allow a spirit of arrogance to stand in the house of the Lord and butcher the trust of the faithful with impunity? How must we appear to an unsaved world when we let the unconscionable run amuck in God’s house? A house that we claim is “set apart” and “holy”. What then can be said of our testimony? Who are we serving? There is such a thing as righteous anger and with passion it’s time to raise a standard against anything that would dare come as an affront to the truth of God. It is not okay to abuse power, trust and children. When you do so it is an offense to the Christ whose blood has purchased us all. The church is God’s property, the people are God’s people and the entrusted stewardship of them is a humble authority. Yes, He is faithful to redeem, forgive and cleanse us of our unrighteousness – but it is the obsequious repentant heart in which He seeks to do it. Taking any other posture is an insult to His grace and authority.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of GOD: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
This scripture is the great leveling of the field, linking us all to one profound truth: There is literally nothing we can do to be “good enough” to deserve the grace of God. It is a gift to which no man can boast a haughty worthiness. We all stand sin soaked needing the restorative, redemptive power of His grace but it does not come in darkness. Truly, how can there be healing when there is no transparent accountability? How can iron sharpen iron if we do not challenge each other to walk in truth? The word of God is clear; if we confess our sins He is faithful to forgive us. But what remains is also clear. A relationship that exists where you can stand before God's people and offer an exegesis on the word of God but not give an open repentant account of your own humanity is a relationship built on a foundation that does not support full growth.
I am a sinner; flawed and imperfect in too many ways to count. Daily I am grateful for His love and His grace. And for the times that I repeatedly fall short (and there are many) I am grateful for His mercy. I am made better by flawed people who dare to hold me accountable and who expect the best of me in Christ; I call these people my friends.
Bishop Long, there is no doubt of God’s love for you. There is only the hope that you would trust that love completely and allow it to have its perfect work in your life. Stand in truth before those who have trusted you and allow anything that you have built without Him to fall away. Yes, it is a tall order but the illusion is to think that anything not born of Him can stand.