Nowadays, husbands have countless reminders of the costs of infidelity. On a regular, almost weekly, basis, we hear of another public figure who has cheated on his wife. We see the news reports and the pictures of betrayed spouses and bewildered children. We hurt terribly for the families and grow angry with the men.
But we don’t stop there. We should pray for these people (1 Timothy 2:1-4, explored below). We should pray for the souls of men like Tiger Woods, who are consigning themselves to an awful fate by their gratification of the lusts of the flesh. As we pray, we are keenly aware that we could easily be in the same position. We understand this in the midst of our daily lives, weak as we would be without the Spirit of Almighty God living inside of us.
Beyond our own small lives, most of us in the Christian community know nothing of the kind of temptation that celebrities likes Woods faces. Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t excuse his behavior–not for a moment. He has sinned grievously against God and against his wife. It is to say, however, that we cannot in this instance–or any other–think that we would necessarily prove impervious to these temptations should we achieve such fame. We are reminded to pray for people like the evangelical football player Tim Tebow, who must face mind-boggling opportunities to throw his faith away on a regular basis.
We are also reminded to pray for the family of Tiger Woods. It tears me up to see photos of his wife and his sweet child. I post one here not to be exploitative, but to remind us all–and particularly husbands and fathers–of the stakes we face in our daily fight against sin. It is important that we look closely at these photos, and that we turn from them to gaze on our own families, seeing before us those we either bless or harm by our conduct. In their role in the home (even the modern one), men have tremendous power in this world to bring incredible goodness into the lives of those they lead or to wreak havoc of unthinkable proportions. Wounds like this caused by Woods and others can be forgiven, magnificently so should the grace of God reach a lowly sinner (may it be so!). But they will never be forgotten. Indeed, they cannot be.
So, we should pray for Tiger Woods, his wife, and his child. We should pray for their salvation. We do so with compassion, understanding of our own sinfulness, and righteous anger. This man has caused terrible harm for his family. At his lowest point, may he see that even if he puts the pieces of his life back together, he has seen, in a way that few of us publicly will, the extent of his depravity, and the desperate need of his soul for the imputation of the spotless righteousness of the Husband who never strays and the adopting love of the Father who never forsakes.
I might add here that I was made to think about Tiger Woods and my need to pray for him by an article by Fred Sanders, a professor of theology at Biola University. Sanders is a well-respected theologian with one of the most thoughtful evangelical blogs I know of. He is an accomplished author and teaches in the esteemed Torrey Honors Institute, from which a number of my friends have graduated.
Fred blogged several months back about how he does not pray for celebrities. I confess that I was quite surprised by the piece. I see no need to pray more for celebrities than for people I know, and I have no affinity for those who suggest that Christians should. However, in the course of one’s prayer life, I think it a good and biblical thing to pray for unsaved celebrities, as with all unsaved people I can think of, to broaden that idea. I follow what I understand to be Paul’s point in 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Paul teaches his young charge that prayers, evangelistically minded prayers, should be made “for all people”. He calls doing so “good” and “pleasing” in God’s sight. It is clear that we are to pray for the salvation of these people because God “desires all people to be saved”. We do this because we want to see people saved and so that we Christians can live “peace and quiet” lives.
It seems to me, then, that to suggest that a Christian, whether oneself or a broader audience, should not pray for people is unbiblical. I understand Fred’s argument that celebrities are carefully packaged presentations of people, managed and massaged by handlers and pr reps. However, I see no reason for assuming that the crafting of a public image allows Christians to relieve themselves of the duty cited above.
Indeed, who has a more carefully packaged image than “kings and all who are in high positions”, whether now or 2000 or 4000 years ago? No one, I would suggest. Image management is not new to our modern era. It is particularly problematic in our day–readers of this blog know well that I would have wide-ranging sympathy for Sanders’s pessimism in the face of our narcissistic culture–but it is not new.
Sanders’s blog has much helpful material on it. I love his little descriptions of the lives of deceased theologians (that sounds weirder than I meant it to). But I fear that he has erred publicly on this point. We pray for unsaved people not because they present themselves authentically, or because we know them personally, but because they are sinful, hanging over hell by a thread, and in desperate need of the sovereign grace of our holy God.
Just because we “don’t care” about them or anyone else doesn’t mean that we should not pray for them (see the last paragraph of Sanders’s post). In His mercy, and for our joy, God is in the process of conforming our desires to His. Much that I “don’t care” about I must do in order to glorify God and experience His goodness. If I made a list of all the commands and teachings of the Bible that I naturally don’t want to follow or don’t care about, there would be precious few that my flesh would willingly carry out.
I was encouraged to see a response to this piece in the Biola magazine. I hope that Dr. Sanders will reconsider his statement, though I have no presumptions that this little blog will accomplish that aim.