All historic and important figures, including those remembered in sculpture and statues, were imperfect sinful human beings.
—King David, the shepherd-poet-king and man after God’s own heart, was a murderer and an adulterer.
—The great Reformer Martin Luther wrote horrible anti-Semitic pieces, yet he blessed the world with his considerable work and legacy.
—Thomas Jefferson, maybe the most brilliant President whose Declaration of Independence is a gift to the world, omitted Native Americans, owned slaves, and lived secretly with a Black slave mistress.
—Abraham Lincoln, perhaps the greatest President, preserved the Union and freed the slaves, but earlier in life made a number of racist statements.
—The great Civil Rights and non-violence leader Martin Luther King, Jr was a serial adulterer, as was JFK.
So who is without sin? None.
If perfection or purity is our standard, we will honor no one but Jesus.
I’m not sure I can answer when it is reasonable to honor someone other than to say it’s our stewardship to figure it out by making judgments based upon our spiritual discernment (Phil 1:9-11). And given Christian liberty, (Romans 14), we may make different decisions. And in the public venue, it's a matter of lawful democratic process, e.g., to determine what Confederate statue to remove or not to remove.
As I said, no one is perfect, so while I cut my teeth on Rock n Roll, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Supremes, Sonny n Cher, and many others, there’s a lot about these artists’ lives and character that leaves much to be desired (the case in my life too) and that I could not possibly endorse.
Same for movies: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry are fun to watch, but they aren’t innocents.
Raise the cultural bar: same for the great masters—Michelangelo, Da Vinci had weird stuff in their lives, but their art is unsurpassed. So it goes.
It’s the dilemma of human nature, created in the image of God and capable of incredibly noble acts, but sinful hearts capable of ignoble acts of the worst kind too. The crime boss who loves his daughter, the war hero who is a thief, the serial killer who helps take down a drug ring… Same for religious, political, military leaders, some who do great things but one and all who fall short.
There’s something else, repentance and forgiveness. King David wasn’t the man after God’s heart because he lived a perfect life but because he repented, exalted God, and God forgave him. This is what’s missing in some current social movements aimed at making all things right—no room for forgiveness, just outrage; no mercy, just judgment.
I believe we should live justly and seek justice, but I’m also glad God grants me mercy not the judgment I deserve.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020
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