Last summer, the National Association of Evangelicals refused to support Israel during its defensive war against Iran- backed Hezbollah, for the first time in its history. I remember this incident clearly, because the Israeli ambassador to the US called several influential evangelical churches which had traditionally supported Israel in order to try to understand the NAE’s about face. One of those churches was ours. Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, was president of the NAE then. Many evangelical leaders who support Israel urged Haggard to reconsider his position, which he did not. In November, Haggard stepped down as president of the NAE and pastor of New Life after the immorality in which he was involved came to public light.
I remember discussing this incident with friends one night after church. The idea came up that God was punishing Haggard for witholding support for Israel. I thought it wasn’t punishment in the classic sense; God did not get Haggard involved in the immorality. Haggard did that himself against God’s will and against the clear teaching of Scripture. But I believe that God extends grace to us, for a time, when we are caught in such a sin, to convict us and to encourage us to repent. But after ample time has passed, if we refuse to repent, then God does allow the consequences of our sin to catch up with us. I do believe that when Haggard hardened his heart against Israel, he sealed the ending of the grace period God had allowed him to deal with the immorality in his life privately.
I believe that John 3:16 teaches God loves all the people in the world, and that Romans 11 teaches God loves both the Church and Israel as His people. It is not us vs. them, or us instead of them. God’s grace toward Haggard has not ended because he has been publicly humbled. Since the scandal went public, Haggard was set free, in a way, from the grip which the immorality had on his life. He repented, and is on the path of healing, as is the church he pastored. Deliverance from sin, and healing from its destructive effects, is a good thing, a gift from the Lord. It has much more eternal value than looking good in the eyes of men and the world.