May 24, 2013
Friday Five Interview: Joshua Harris
Can Christians be both humble and orthodox? We asked a popular pastor and the author of a new book.
For today's entry in the Friday Five interview series, we catch up with Joshua Harris.
Today we chat with Joshua and asked him to define “humble orthodoxy” and why he recently chose to reveal a very personal secret to his church.
Can you explain the idea of humble orthodoxy?
It’s a simple idea, really. Truth matters, but so does our attitude. It’s vital that we be committed to orthodox Christian belief, but we also need to defend and share this truth with compassion and humility towards others. I want to remind believers that to glorify Jesus we need both humility and orthodoxy—we can’t choose one or the other.
Many who champion orthodoxy may not see the need for humility, and vice versa. Can we be both civil and courageous?
It’s not easy. I know I certainly haven’t arrived. But, yes, I believe we can be civil and courageous because it’s what the gospel demands and Christ enables us to do. It’s so important to see that Jesus’ redeeming work for us is both the motivation and the engine of humble orthodoxy. Because the “truth once delivered” is so precious, out of love for a lost world we need to courageously contend for it and proclaim it. And because this gospel is of grace we have to make sure our attitudes and words and actions don’t contradict the love and mercy we’ve received. God has loved us and shown us grace, so we can show grace to people who disagree with us. If we don’t do this, we contradict and obscure the gospel with our lives.
This idea may be even more important in this Internet age. Would you agree?
Absolutely. There’s a lot of “arrogant orthodoxy” online. The internet makes it easier to forget that we’re interacting with human beings created in the image of God, whom Jesus came to seek and save. If someone is just a screen name, we can more easily justify words that are demeaning, disrespectful, and angry. We need to remember that we’ll answer to God for our online words, too.
In the last few years you and the Sovereign Grace family have endured quite a bit of public controversy. What has this experience taught you?
It’s been tough. Our church’s decision to end our formal association with Sovereign Grace and the events that led up to it were very difficult—particularly because it played out on a public stage. These past two years have been the most challenging of my life both personally and in ministry. But as a local church, we see the difficulties of this time as the fatherly, loving discipline of the Lord. He’s been refining and growing us through this in ways we never would have chosen, but desperately needed. There was pride in my own heart about our doctrine and methodology. I thought I knew better than other Christians and other churches. So the Lord has used this to humble me. I’ve also been the focus of a good bit of criticism, and that is helping to break my addiction to the approval and praise of man.
This past Sunday, while addressing the allegations against the Sovereign Grace organization in your Sunday sermon, you shared that you suffered abuse as a child. Did you wrestle with whether to share this and why did you think this was the best time?
Yes, I did wrestle with the decision to share that part of my story. Even as I was preaching I found myself thinking, "Do you really want to open this up?" But I made that choice because I hoped that my vulnerability would make it easier for other victims of abuse to step forward and get help. My hope is that a person would hear me and think, "Okay, if the pastor can admit that in front of the church then I can call the police and tell someone what is happening to me. I can get counseling. I can tell my story, too." It's very difficult because it feels like such a shameful thing, but we need to learn how to talk about sexual abuse in the church. We need to teach people who have been abused that it's not their fault. And we need to believe that God's grace is mighty enough to meet us and transform us even in this painful part of our lives.
Bonus Question: If you could give one piece of advice to young pastors and church leaders, what would it be?
Trust in the power of the gospel and the sufficiency of God’s word. And only wear skinny jeans if your wife says you can pull it off.