Aug 242020 5 Responses

I Hope He Falls Well

No one was shocked. When news broke that Jerry Falwell Jr. resigned for the presidency of Liberty University because of a confirmed sex scandal, we all knew the resignation was overdue. Confession–I’ve never been a Falwell fan, neither father nor son. To me, that type of Christianity–the ‘us versus them’ brand–is far from the teachings of Jesus. As Falwell Jr. grew in power, his brashness grated on me. I hated that others pointed to him as a picture of Christianity.

When the latest scandal broke, I was relieved his time at Liberty was over. Private Christian Universities are needed and these are not easy times for them. My fear is that many will close in a post-COVID world so those that survive need to be good–both strong academically and spiritually. Under Falwell, Liberty could never be the latter. Now they have a chance.

Jerry needed to fall. For Liberty to thrive, he needed to be removed. Lest Americans are confused about the nature of Christianity, his sins needed to come to light. In a culture where too many evangelicals are surrendering the Gospel to gain access to political power, his hypocrisy needed to be revealed. Jerry needed to fall.

But now, I hope he falls well. (See: How to Keep Your Names Out of the Headlines)

The Falwell Warning

Falwell’s story should be a warning to every person of faith, especially those of us who have grown up in the evangelical world. There is a great temptation for those who grow up in faith to be so surrounded by faith that we assume it has taken root in our hearts when actually it hasn’t. We can assume ourselves followers of Jesus never realizing that nothing we believe, desire, or do actually emulates the life of Jesus.

This is especially tempting in places and communities where the teachings of Jesus have been so intertwined with the American Dream that sometimes it is hard to tell the two apart. In his book, A Gentle Answer, Scott Sauls reminds us, “Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, whose own life did not square at all with the so-called American Dream. He lived much of his life in poverty, was maligned and misunderstood, was an embarrassment to his own family members, was betrayed by his closest friends, and was brutally executed in his early thirties by Roman authorities.” This is a radically different way of life from what many Christians believe God will give us if we obey him. We expect a nice house, a good job, great friends, and a growing retirement fund.

Falwell’s past reminds us that no matter how close we are to faith, that does not ensure that it resides in our souls and is at work in our hearts. We can be close to religion, yet far from God. (See: Sometimes You Are Your Past)

The Falwell Potential

Yet there is great potential in Falwell’s story. Hopefully he is at (or at least near) rock bottom, and while it is sad that he is there, that is the only place he would have a chance to truly encounter faith. It’s once the private planes are gone, the White House trips are over, and the reputation is shot that Falwell can actually consider the message of Jesus–forgiveness for those humble enough to admit their need for it and life for those who are willing to lose theirs for his sake.

Sadly, hitting rock bottom is no guarantee of transformation, but it does provide the greatest opportunity for it. Falwell had no chance of awakening to God when surrounded by money and power. He has a good chance of finding it now. And I don’t mean a convenient salvation which quickly restores his reputation without any work or heart transformation. My hope is that Falwell has a true encounter with Jesus, years of discovering his misplaced affections, and slowly begins to appreciate a different way of life.

It’s my hope for him and for all of us.

How Can Jerry (or anyone) Fall Well?

Falwell Jr. has a choice to make in the days to come. He can either fall hard and not change or he can fall well and forever look back on this as the greatest thing to ever happen in his life. (See: When Your Life’s About to Fall Apart)

Here’s the difference.

To fall poorly, Falwell needs to:

  • believe everything that is happening is unfair
  • think he doesn’t deserve it
  • make no attempt to look within himself
  • continue to chase power, money, and fame
  • assume he is righteous

But to fall well, Jerry needs to:

  • own his mistakes by blaming no one
  • seek God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of others
  • make amends
  • rediscover the faith he once had or come to true faith for the first time
  • submit to the leadership of others–a counselor, wise friends, a godly pastor, etc.
  • consistently do the work (over years, not months) of finding healthy ways to deal with life

If he chooses, today could forever go down as the greatest day in Jerry Falwell’s life. If he allows this to open his eyes and make changes, he will never regret the bad headlines.

It’s an amazing story about Jesus. He takes our worst days and allows them to be used for our good.

Cover photo by Gage Skidmore.

5 Responses to I Hope He Falls Well

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