By John Perritt
When Christians Mess Up
To say that the recent news of Hugh Freeze’s resigning created a stir on social media is a bit of an understatement. Not only did this come in the midst of other NCAA investigations, but allegations of a possible escort only added to the shock felt by those who saw Freeze as a man of faith—as one who used his platform for God’s glory.
As I began to hear of this news, I, too, was shocked. Of course, I was shocked to hear these reports about Coach Freeze, but I think I was more shocked at the joy this news seemed to bring so many others. But, then again, I wasn’t all that shocked at the same time. After all, the human “heart is deceitful above all else and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9) and our hearts take joy in another’s downfall—especially if they’re on the opposing team.
People will quickly call to question Freeze’s profession of faith, but what about those who laugh at a man caught in this apparent sin? What does it say about the hearts of those who read the headline and felt immediate joy? Shouldn’t their faith be suspect as well?
This story simply serves as another sobering reminder about humanity’s sinfulness. Not just those who are caught in the sin, but those who are spectators of the one caught in sin.
Faith and Unbelief
While serving in student ministry for over twelve years, I was frequently asked this: How do I really know I’m a Christian? How do I know that I’ve truly repented of my sins and placed my faith in Jesus Christ?
It was this question that fueled the passion for my recent book, What Would Judas Do? Judas had always been an intriguing character to me. For starters, he worked alongside the Son of God during his earthly ministry. He saw him heal the blind, deaf, lame, and demon possessed. He saw him feed the 5,000 and 4,000. He saw him calm the storm. He saw him raise the dead. He saw all of this and betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver.
I wanted to explore the man Judas Iscariot and ask this question: How could he have known Jesus Christ so intimately and still not believed? So, I set out to reflect upon the life of the world’s greatest betrayer in a 31-day devotional.
I did not know what all I would write and reflect upon. I didn’t even know if I could come up with 31 aspects of Judas’ life to reflect on. But, what became apparent very early on was this—I am a lot like Judas.
People are quick to despise Judas and think they’re above this man, however, that was part of Judas’ flaw. That is, to have sincere faith in Jesus Christ, we must grasp the depth of our own sin. We must know that our hearts are broken and we need a Savior. We must realize that there was only one righteous person in the Bible and that was Jesus Christ. It is only by his blood that we are healed. Judas seemed to miss this about his own heart.
It is a dangerous place to be when we look down on others and think, “I would never do that!” Of course you would do that were it not for God’s grace. Judas loved money, some may retort. And, so do many reading this article. Judas betrayed Jesus, others may cry. Truth be told, we all do that in various ways each and every day.
What we must realize is that the same sins that poisoned Judas’ heart poison yours and mine. Were it not for God’s grace, we, too, would find ourselves in Judas’ sandals. If we don’t believe this, we don’t grasp the sinfulness of our own hearts and are in danger of missing the need for salvation through Christ alone.
As J. C. Ryle says, “A right knowledge of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity.” It is this right understanding of sin that Judas seemed to miss. He didn’t know the darkness of his own heart and missed an eternity with the Savior because of this.
The understanding of our own sin and brokenness must be at the forefront of this situation surrounding Hugh Freeze. Our hearts should break for him. Our hearts should break for his family. Our hearts should break for someone who professes to be our brother in Christ. And our hearts should echo the words that have been attributed to John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
John Perritt is the Resource Coordinator for Reformed Youth Ministries (rymonline.org). He is the author of Your Days Are Numbered (Christian Focus 2016). His newest book, What Would Judas Do? can be found at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. He and his wife, Ashleigh, have five children and live in Ridgeland.