Monday, December 21, 2009

Secret Sins

The media has been overly occupied with a side-story for the past month. Tiger Woods has fallen from a perceived, lofty perch. No evidence yet that he will be any less dominant as a golfer, when he returns, for his fall has been of the moral nature. Tiger has shown an all-to-familiar weakness.

Mr. Woods, up until now, had been able to maintain a reputation that was pretty much squeaky-clean. He enjoyed the position of being on the top of the golfing world. He not only made millions of dollars playing golf, but probably made much more through endorsements. In order to get and maintain multi-million dollar endorsements, an athlete needs to have a good, public perception, besides being a super-star at his game.

Though the story-line is thousands of years old, it still makes headlines when an “idol” tumbles from the top of a marble column. Tiger is far from being unique in his situation. Most of us remember similar stories about President Bill Clinton, Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, Reverend Jim Bakker, Kobe Bryant… Each man appeared to be on top of his world with fame and fortune. We could add to the list: Senators, Representatives, Governors, movie stars, singers, mayors, etc. The list is not exclusive to men, there are famous women who have taken the same fall.

We hear their stories because we all know who they are. The media loves to divulge all the intimate details and to speculate on the “facts” they do not know. In each case there is at least one other party who is a participant. Behind each case there is at least one other person who has been betrayed. The hurt brings various responses, all the way from “stand-by-your-man” to move out and hire the attorney.

Some find these stories to be fascinating. They check each day for the latest gossip. They help spread the rumors and add to the speculation. There seems to be a frenzy around the abuser and the abused, just like a bunch of vultures around a wounded cow lying out in a field.

Behind the titillating details, what really happened? What is the base-line of the story? In each case, the names and faces change, but the basics remain the same. We have the super-star being caught in a secret sin. Did they believe they would never be found out? I have no idea, but whether or not they thought they could get away with the sin in secret, they proceeded as if no one would ever know.

The first day of the Tiger Woods story, I hoped that he was doing something like heading to Walgreens to get medicine for a sick family member and had an accident because he was sleepy. It upset me when I heard the media guessing as to whether Tiger was heading to a rendezvous in the middle of the night. Why did it bother me? Because I had a lot of respect for Tiger and I wanted the whole thing to be an innocent, unfortunate accident.

It appeared that others had a different desire. It almost seemed like some were hoping that there was some seedy story that they would be able to talk about. It seemed as if some were taking pleasure in his fall as more became revealed. Probably all of us hurt for his wife and children, but I also hurt for him. Not because he was being wrongfully charged or that he did not deserve the public humiliation, but because he became a regular guy whose world was crashing around him and I know how that feels.

You see, it is not just the high-and-mighty who take great falls. Some of us have a shorter distance to bottom, but the landing hurts just as much. There should be no pleasure enjoyed in the fall of another person. No matter how big or how small of a kingdom that person once possessed, it hurts as you watch it crumble around you, knowing it is your fault and there is nothing you can do at this point to stop the disintegration.

There is another aspect to the story-behind-the-story. It is a moral matter of spiritual relevance. I have no idea as to whether some of these famous people who have fallen are Christians, but some claimed to be and I sure did. I would have to believe that the hurt may be a little more painful to one who claimed the moral high-road than to another whose morality never was seen as a thing of beauty. To one who had no good reputation, it became one less thing to lose. But to those of whom more was expected, the embarrassment and failure just added to the weight.

In the case of Tiger, I pray that there is someone close to him personally who has or will come alongside. Someone who will hold him accountable, help him deal with the pain; but most importantly, point him in the right direction-spiritually. I hope that his emphasis is not on how to save his kingdom, keep his sponsors and repair his reputation. I hope that he is a broken man who is seeking a better path, forgiveness, and reconciliation with his wife and a relationship with his Creator.

We tend to treat immorality in public figures as an interesting story. We wait for the latest revelation and check for videos posted on the Internet. We should not. It is not something that, just because it is happening to a star, is okay for us to watch like a soap opera on TV. It should not be a story that is glamorized by enticing images and tales. It is a situation that deserves to be treated just for what it is – a sin and a fall with a sinner and victims.

I listened to Wayne’s sermon on Luke 7:36-50, “Forgiven Much”. He deals with the self-righteous Pharisee who invited Jesus to come to his house for dinner. During the visit, a sinful woman came and washed Jesus’ feet with tears and anointed his feet with perfume. The Pharisee thought that it was disgusting that Jesus let such a woman touch him. Jesus taught the Pharisee the parable of the debtors with the result being that he or she, who is forgiven much, loves much. This woman was expressing much love for her sins were many and exposed and she was dealing with them. Jesus told her, “Thy sins are forgiven.” On the other hand, the Pharisee was not showing love to Jesus, had not dealt with his sins and wanted to maintain the public perception of him being a righteous man.

Was the Pharisee a righteous man? No, he just carried his sins in secret. He was sure that he was smart enough that he could hide the dark side of his nature. To him and many times to us, we believe that if no one knows our secret sins then we are getting away with them and no harm done. All the time we are pretending to be the righteous man, we are faking a close walk with God because on the inside we know the truth and we know God is not fooled.

None of us are any better than Tiger Woods, the Pharisee, or the sinful woman. We are just at different stages. Some are where Tiger was a couple months ago, hiding our secret sins as if we can continue, unexposed, forever. Some of us have had our sins exposed and are dealing with them. Some are already to the point of hearing, “Thy sins are forgiven.”

Where are you? I pray that if you are living a lie with secret sin, you would flee from the immorality as fast as you can. I pray that you would fall on your knees and get your relationship with God back on track. I pray that your world would not crash around you unless that is the only way God can get you humbled and ready for change. I pray that your eyes would be opened and your heart softened to repent and seek mercy.

Do not stand back and cast stones. Rather crouch down next to the guilty one and offer a word of encouragement, point the direction, and lead the sinner out of the depth of despair.

James 5:20 “Let him know that he which converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

Over 15 years ago, God sent a man to come along side of me when I was on the receiving end of the stones – as guilty and embarrassed as I could be. His words were filled with truth and his hands were empty of rocks. Though I was almost a stranger to him, he dropped what he was doing and was there to help me as much as I needed. I will never forget his love and will always hold this special friend very dear to my heart.

If you find yourself on the forgiven list, instead of the secret sin list, then you too can be that person who holds out a hand of love and saves a soul from death.


  1. We must strive to see ourselves the way we are - the way God sees us - and deal with our sins accordingly.

    To cover up or hide our sins might make us look better to others, but it denies the reality of the problem we have before God. The shame a person feels when his sins are exposed is usually more about being embarrassed in front of others or a fear of what consequences might be looming, than it is a fear of God or remorse for having offended Him.

    To work really hard to avoid sins, in one's own strength, only fails to see that the problem is more about being sinful than it is about doing sins.

    We must come to a point of genuine faith, where we humbly see ourselves as truly ugly before God, apart from the beauty of His grace in our lives.

    If it takes exposure to the world before a person is able to drop his self-protective and self-righteous guard, then let the exposure come! For an exposed sin is a sin that can be dealt with appropriately before God, through right confession, repentance and faith. A hidden sin is one that can always be turned to again with ease.

  2. Dad, I appreciate your transparency on this topic. I read it a while back and it really hit home. Mark kept saying how messed up it was that the media was all over Tiger Woods for what he did and how everyone was just tuning into it for entertainment. I responded with, "he's getting what he deserves! All these hot shots should be so exposed!" I still feel that way to some extent, but the point you're making about these being real people with real feelings and that he has a wife that is really hurt right now, etc. made me think about it in a different way. Also, although I don't think a celebrity who is so highly esteemed and who is a role model and spokesperson should be able to behave this way without public scrutiny, I think it's important that anyone who looks on their situation also keeps in mind how weak and sinful they are themselves and doesn't make light of any of it.