Jonathan Merritt is a nationally known writer, blogger and news personality. He has written two books, Green Like God and A Faith of Our Own and has written for USAToday, the Huffington Post, and many others. He’s done lots of news appearances– the last I saw him on television was on “The O-Reilly Factor” a few weeks ago.
I have never interacted with Merritt but have read a few of his writings. My unfamiliarity with him may give me a different perspective than some who follow his media appearances and writings.
The Stetzer-Meritt interview centered on Merritt being the target of an act called “outing.” The term describes the act of revealing or calling for a confession of someone’s private same-sex attraction. In this case the “outers” were former Christian and practicing homosexual Azariah Southworth and Southern Baptist Pastor Peter Lumpkins. Southworth stated on his blog that Merritt was attracted to other men and that Merritt needed to confess this to the world because of Merritt’s public defense of Chick-Fil-A and traditional marriage. Lumpkins read Southworth’s blog post and then published the unsubstantiated gossip on his blog raising questions that were, frankly, none of his business.
In the Stetzer-Merritt interview, Merritt revealed that he had previously experienced same-sex attraction and had previously met a peer in a public setting where afterward Merritt and his acquaintance violated the boundaries of friendship. Merritt stated that he had already confessed this act as sin and that the Lord has been and continues to deliver him from same-sex attraction.
What I learned from the interview and subsequent discussions
1. The world wants to destroy you but do not fear the world
While this truth is not new to me it is something I have never seen so clearly. Every Christian has a past. I was saved later in life after experiencing and committing far more sinful activities than most of my Southern Bible-belt churched peers. There are many people who know a lot of things about my past. Some of them are friends, some are acquaintances, and some I have never met but have heard or will one day hear about “that guy who is now a pastor.” Jonathan Merritt’s private past came to the public eye and he handled it with grace and honesty. Merritt made much of Christ and the Lord’s grace in granting repentance and forgiveness. The world, and even some within the church, want to destroy you, but we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb and no one will ever bring a charge against God’s elect (Rev 7; Rom 8).
2. Make much of Christ in every situation
Merritt was sinned against by numerous individuals both in and out of the church. It would be easy for him to throw darts back at those who were gossipping and attempting to hurt his ministry. Instead, I saw Merritt, Stetzer, and others focus on Christ and the gospel instead of maligning others. This is incredibly tough and only possible by relying on the indwelling of God’s Spirit to produce gentleness and love. I was encouraged by the response from Merritt and others and reminded that whatever is going on in my life, make much of Christ, not those sinning against you.
I feel deeply sorry for Jonathan Merritt and the way he has been treated. I am sorry that a Southern Baptist pastor has joined the efforts of an apostate to harm a Christian and his ministry. However, at the end of the day, Christ was made much of and the gospel of Jesus Christ was once again brought forth in all its glory. Jesus saves. Jesus delivers. Jesus and his gospel are far more worthy of dwelling on than the arrows of Satan and the sins of fallen men. I look forward to seeing how this situation is going to work for the good of Jonathan Merritt and Christ’s Church.