Saturday, June 27, 2015

Open Letter to Bristol Palin...And to the Church

Dear Bristol,

I know you said you didn't want lectures or sympathy, but I am going to give you both, anyway, as one of your elders and as a fellow Christian representing Christ and his church, which you have called your own.

I don't write to you or to the Church because I am without sin, or because I have less of it in my life than others. Rather, I am writing as one who has the gift of discernment. God tells us that first, no one gift is better than another, and secondly, we must use the gifts we were given to help build the Church. They aren't to be hidden away because it's too much trouble to bother.

Understand, I am not judging you, Bristol. I'm merely writing to highlight what I see as a problem in the Church--a Church that's failing to make disciples. Internal sin hinders the Church terribly and makes it a mockery.

I want to commend you on several fronts, beforehand.

Firstly, I am glad you have loved your son Tripp so well. I rejoice that you believe every life is precious. I commend you for carrying this new baby, despite the horrific cost to you personally, in light of your public life. I too believe every baby is a blessing.

And Bristol, I'm sincerely sorry you have been disappointed in love and that this pregnancy doesn't come at a happier time in your life. My heart aches for you over that disappointment. Truly, people will disappoint us--whether it's husband, parents, children or friends--they will all disappoint, which is why we have to cling to the Lord harder than to anyone or anything.

You had the best of intentions and I'm sure you'd like credit for those. I heard that some years back you told Oprah you wouldn't engage in any further premarital sex. And as the left loves to remind you, you got paid a high salary to speak on behalf of an abstinence campaign. Yes, this puts you in an embarrassing situation now--one that's inviting the worst of the You Hypocrite! comments regularly lobbied at Christians. I want to address your response to these attacks, and your response to your own sin.

But first, about your paid ventures, such as the abstinence campaign: I clearly see that you and your mother are entrepreneurs and when opportunities come, either by chance or through your savvy smarts, you take them. As a single mom with no education to fall back on, you are right to do what you can to support your child. No one can begrudge you that.

Entrepreneurs have a certain set of strengths and weaknesses, and impulsiveness is unfortunately one of the weaknesses, which has gotten you and your mother into trouble through carelessly tossed comments--comments that, while perhaps true, too often are devoid of grace and gentleness. Your tones exude defiance rather than humility, which is understandable given the viciousness of the personal comments you and your family have received over the years. The minute we name Christ, we're vulnerable to attacks.

God wants us to clothe ourselves in grace and gentleness. Our enemies being vicious toward us does not justify defiance, defensiveness and sarcasm, at the expense of humility and grace. When we fall and speak rashly, we need to apologize for our lack of graciousness. There is something very noble about these two words, sincerely offered: I'm sorry. 

My own carelessly tossed words toward an enemy brought condemnation on me, and the Lord taught me the humility necessary to say I'm sorry, even to one who hates me and didn't deserve my apology. The apology wasn't for my enemy, but for the Lord and his bride, the Church. Sometimes we don't get to be individuals in the Church. We must see ourselves as part of a Body, to whom we have an obligation.

Maybe I'm sorry won't satisfy the left, but it will please the Lord, to whom you owe everything.

Now I'm going to address what most bothers me about your overall attitude. I haven't read your bestselling book about the forgiveness and redemption God blessed you with following your 2008 fall from grace. Maybe it was very contrite and I rejoice if that is true.

But as a fellow member of the Church, I am saddened by your first blog post announcing your new pregnancy, and your following  "Update" post, in which you're pictured making a zero sign with your hand, indicating how much you care about the negativity lobbied at you.

This zero sign smacks of defiance, in the face of a sin God finds grievous. You can't afford this attitude right now and neither can the Church. My whole spirit groaned when I saw it, Bristol.

And here's your initial announcement, which also has its problems, spiritually speaking:

(I’m announcing this news a lot sooner than I ever expected due to the constant trolls who have nothing better to talk about!!!) This is not gracious, Bristol. You became a public figure by choice when you began taking jobs that put you into the public eye. When you were a teen, you were thrown into the public eye, but in your twenties, you chose it. Be gracious to the public no matter if they deserve it or not. Be humble and consider that you are impulsive sometimes. Have a plan to pray about your words before publishing them. The more famous you are, the more responsibility you have. To whom much is given, much is expected.
I wanted you guys to be the first to know that I am pregnant. Honestly, I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one. At the end of the day there’s nothing I can’t do with God by my side, and I know I am fully capable of handling anything that is put in front of me with dignity and grace. Let's not speak of dignity and grace without considering what it looks like, first. I agree you are capable of this. However, without clothing yourself in humility, dignity and grace will allude you. Acknowledge your sin as many times as you have to when you address the public outcry. Or, give up your public persona and live as a private citizen. God allows notoriety for Christians, and with it comes responsibility. Yes, I said that before, but it needs repeating for any Christian in the public eye.
Recall when the Duggars were thrown into the public eye to a greater extent because of Josh's sin. They didn't respond snarkily, but humbly. They remained humble and gracious throughout.
Life moves on no matter what. So no matter how you feel, you get up, get dressed, show up, and never give up. Your children need your strength and not viewing yourself as a victim is commendable, however, life does not just happen. We make choices and God demands that we take the consequences even while he forgives. Sin is incredibly costly for us personally and for the Church. Thus, you are having trouble keeping your chin up emotionally as you live the consequences. This is to be expected. The cost of your sin will be high for you and your two children forever, even as God gives you the hope to face tomorrow.
I wish you had said something about the cost to your children. We love our children with our prudent choices on their behalf, as much as with our hugs and our time with them. As always, love requires dying to self and this is something your children are going to look for in your history, as they reflect back on their childhoods. Yes, mom gave birth to us despite the public ridicule, but did she also live her life with tender care for our overall well being--for our salvation, above all? Bristol, I have to ask myself these same types of questions as a mother, everyday. Every mother needs to remember: I no longer fly solo in my everyday decisions. God is merciful, but the stakes are high for parents and without putting God first intentionally, who gives us wisdom and insight, we will mess up frequently, and our children will identify our mistakes in their own minds someday, to our shame and regret.
When life gets tough, there is no other option but to get tougher. Or, when life gets tough, there is the option to embrace humility and clothe ourselves in it. I'm not sure God wants you to get tougher, Bristol. I think he wants you to have a contrite spirit and realize that to avoid sin, you have to be intentional. You have to view yourself as incredibly fallen and sinful. Only through this lens do we take terribly seriously the need to walk away from temptation. God always provides a way out of temptation, and we have to locate that way out and keep our eyes on it.
You needed to avoid being alone with your boyfriend/fiance. You needed to have the humility necessary to plan not to be alone with him. Planning not to sin is how we avoid sin, and yes, this is the lecture you didn't want and said you didn't need. Passion is more than human beings can handle unless we put it under God's rule, just as too much money is more than most of us can handle, unless we put it under God's rule. Without a plan, no single or single-again person remains chaste--nor does a wife or husband who allows themselves to be alone with the opposite sex, or allows themselves to share their personal life with the same, resulting in an emotional affair.
Any other stance regarding sin is magical thinking--and magical thinking has weakened the Church. We all exercise way too much of this. You are not alone here, Bristol. Magical thinking is crushing the Church, making her more and more irrelevant.
I see it in my own life as well, Bristol, and your pain has been a reminder that I need to address every last sin in my life with an intentional plan, starting with a note on my computer: Set a timer now. No escapism allowed. For this is what intention looks like, and yes, even with it we will sometimes fall. Thus, the Cross. But the cross is cheapened when we sin on a regular basis, willfully or through lack of an intentional plan. Indeed, without a plan to identify the escape route God provides, maybe we are willfully sinning. This judgement is up to God.
But she was engaged, some people say. I understand this may seem like the time to relax your standards--when the ring is already on the finger. A ring doesn't matter in the least in terms of sin. People change their minds and they fall out of lust/love quickly--and this is especially true when we fall sexually. Disdain for the object of our passion is common after our sin.
If you ever want to be married, Bristol, understand that the minute you say yes to passion before marriage, you will love yourself and your partner less because of it. Nothing kills love like shame and disgust. I'm sorry the shame isn't equally shared by your ex-fiance in society's eyes, but believe me, God is just as displeased with him. His walk before God will not be easy if he doesn't do the right thing.
I want to see your joyful face in the future as a mother and wife, and I just don't think that will happen if you don't receive and take to heart a bit of lecturing. We all need spiritual sharpening and we mustn't begrudge it haughtily.
I know this has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family, to my close friends, and to many of you. While this is nice, it falls short of admitting sin. It falls short of saying: I'm sorry I stained the Church. I'm sorry I didn't take more seriously my high position and consider what good I could have done for the Church. Part of the disdain against you, Bristol, is due to your wording here: This simply isn't a contrite heart asking for forgiveness. It isn't a heart that's been humbled enough to say: I have sinned against God, against the Church, against my fiance, and against my children. I humbly ask for your forgiveness, and I need your prayers so I can do right by God and by the Church, going forward.
But please respect Tripp’s and my privacy during this time. I do not want any lectures and I do not want any sympathy.
My little family always has, and always will come first. Tripp, this new baby, and I will all be fine, because God is merciful. He'd be far more merciful if you were far more contrite. I urge you to put out a new statement, Bristol. One that points to the terrible consequences of sin. One that shows you truly understand your failings. One that expresses sorrow that you did not live up to the hopes of the organizations who paid you to encourage abstinence. One that shows you understand we are part of one body, the Church, and you let the Church down too, not just your family, friends, and blog followers. I urge you to say the obvious to young people: Do not be alone with your date, for passion is something bigger than you. Tell them to be intentional with this, and that they need to ask someone to hold them accountable. Understanding the need for accountability is part of humility. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Whether you ever get paid again for a public appearance, or book, or not, do the good you can right now. Go low and humble for the glory of God. Use this opportunity not to make a defiant zero with your finger, but to make amends. After you adopt this stance, God will make beauty from ashes. 

And the same is true for the rest of us. Want beauty from ashes? We have to give up what we want for ourselves or our image, and bow low. We're all in the same boat here. All with the same scarlet letter Bristol wears. All defiant and fighting humility like it's our worst enemy, instead of our way Home.

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