Do we deserve to be judged by the best of what we accomplished in our lives or by the worst of what we did or did not do?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself since I heard V-103’s Larry Tinsley, host of Sunday Morning Praise, announce the death of Bishop Eddie L. Long while I drove to church Sunday morning. While I took part in my church’s service in which the focus was racial reconciliation and honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I knew that a corner of my mind was pondering the life and death of Bishop Eddie L. Long. And once church was over, my mind was free to organize my random thoughts about what had I heard.
For many, Bishop Eddie L. Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, a black megachurch in Decatur, Georgia that once reportedly boasted 25,000 members at its zenith was a man who not only transformed his church through his pastorate but the city of Decatur and beyond through various programs assisting prisoners, drug addicts, the homeless and more. Over the years, many of my friends and associates were once members of the church. I remember hearing him on V-103 years ago when he delivered empowering messages during the “Inspirational Vitamin” of The Frank and Wanda Morning Show, and I interviewed him once for a magazine article I wrote about domestic violence in the church.
But what about the convincing allegations of four young men who accused him of targeting them through the black church’s now defunct LongFellows Youth Academy and cultivating sexual relationships with them 7 years ago in 2010? As we all know by now, the allegations were never aired out in a courtroom but instead a settlement out of court was reached between Bishop Long and these men. A settlement does not necessarily denote guilt but given the egregious actions Bishop Long was accused of and his declaration that he was going to fight these allegations, guilt does not seem like an unlikely conclusion in this case.
So what lives matter more? All of the lives of people Bishop Eddie L. Long positively influenced during his life or the lives of the four young men whose lives will be forever linked to Bishop Eddie L. Long?
Now there will probably be some who read this blog post and say, Who are you to judge? Only God can judge? And to those I say, yes, I agree. Only God can decide if you go ascend to the glory of Heaven or sink to the abyss of hell. But there are many verses in the Bible that encourage us to make assessments and act accordingly…Below are a few…
I’m not putting these verses out there not to condemn Bishop Long. I’m simply putting them out there to say that God encourages us to assess and act which is a form of judgment but not the same as the judgment in which God determines our final home. Life is nothing if not a series of lessons and we would be wise to learn from those who have completed their journey ahead of us.
In pondering what I have learned from the life and death of Bishop Eddie L. Long, I have come to a few conclusions…
- The gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to impact an entire community and beyond. As my father, who is a pastor, says, “People really do need the Lord.” There are some out there who think that what happened with Bishop Eddie L. Long is an indictment of the black church or church in general. I say to you as long as you judge (or assess) the Word of God by imperfect human beings, there will always be a reason to doubt the Word of God. Pastors are sinful people. Christians are sinful people. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23…And here’s the thing, I haven’t seen sins ranked in the Bible …Anyone from a murderer to a student who cheated on a test has committed a sin and yet is still eligible for entry into Heaven if God has forgiven them. (Although we all know that some some sins naturally have more consequences than others.)Don’t get it twisted. Judge the Word of God by the Word of God. A pastor may lead you to God, but he or she is not God….
- All lives matter. All of the people who continue to sing the praises of Bishop Long to those who cannot see past the sexual allegations of the four young men matter. The paradox of this statement is that whatever group you find yourself in or even if you are somewhere in the middle, each person is valid and should be treated as such. If you were helped by the ministry of Bishop Long, who am I tell that help did not matter. And on the other hand, you absolutely cannot disparage the young men who claim they were victimized by Bishop Long. The word of God says that there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents in Luke 15:10. If we believe in the God of the Bible, we see that each and every person is valuable.
- Bishop Eddie L. Long is dead, but you are still alive. For all of our commentaries on Bishop Eddie L. Long whether on social media or in whispered conversations, Bishop Eddie L. Long is only God’s business now. In Luke 9:60, we are told to, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. What I interpret that verse to mean is that if you are alive, you have to get on with your life. If you are a Christian, what are you doing to proclaim the Word of God? As my father said when we briefly discussed Bishop Eddie L. Long on Sunday, “we are only here for a brief time.”
So as far as the answer of my original question is concerned, I guess it is truly up to to the person who is making the judgment…What say you?