I was introduced to Josh Harris like many of you were in the mid-90’s when he published his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I remember resenting him personally even though I had never met him, because his book was circulating on the Christian college campus I was attending and it seemed like everywhere I turned for a date, I ran into a “No,” because of his book.
Later, I grew to appreciate his writing when he published Not Even a Hint (a book on sexual purity) and Stop Dating the Church (a book about the importance of being involved in your local church).
But by now, you have probably heard the distressing announcement that Josh Harris made about his marriage and his family. Last week, on Instagram, Harris answered the previous rumors about him leaving Christianity and his wife, when he posted the following:
“My heart is full of gratitude. I wish you could see all the messages people sent me after the announcement of my divorce. They are expressions of love though they are saddened or even strongly disapprove of the decision.
“I am learning that no group has the market cornered on grace. This week I’ve received grace from Christians, atheists, evangelicals, exvangelicals, straight people, LGBTQ people, and everyone in-between. Of course there have also been strong words of rebuke from religious people. While not always pleasant, I know they are seeking to love me. (There have also been spiteful, hateful comments that angered and hurt me.)
“The information that was left out of our announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is “deconstruction,” the biblical phrase is “falling away.” By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.
“Martin Luther said that the entire life of believers should be repentance. There’s beauty in that sentiment regardless of your view of God. I have lived in repentance for the past several years—repenting of my self-righteousness, my fear-based approach to life, the teaching of my books, my views of women in the church, and my approach to parenting to name a few. But I specifically want to add to this list now: to the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say that I am sorry for the views that I taught in my books and as a pastor regarding sexuality. I regret standing against marriage equality, for not affirming you and your place in the church, and for any ways that my writing and speaking contributed to a culture of exclusion and bigotry. I hope you can forgive me.
“To my Christians friends, I am grateful for your prayers. Don’t take it personally if I don’t immediately return calls. I can’t join in your mourning. I don’t view this moment negatively. I feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful. I believe with my sister Julian that, ‘All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’”
I join many in expressing sorrow for anyone who abandons their Creator.
I am not here to give you a timeline of how someone moves from an up-and-coming celebrity pastor to apostate (if that is really what has happened).
I am not here to write “an open letter” to Josh Harris pleading with him to repent and turn back to the Lord, for he will never read it from this little-known blog.
I want to beg my sphere of influence to do one thing: pray. There isn’t anything more effective and powerful that we can do as a Christian community than pray. We must pray for this young man who has lost sight of genuine affections. We must pray for this former preacher that once articulated so well the faith that was once delivered to him (Jude 3). We must pray for the confused friends and family members who watched his fruitful ministry draw countless people closer to Christ – only to learn that he wants nothing to do with Christ anymore. We must pray that he would take to heart the words of the a book title from his younger brothers (Do Hard Things) and do the hard thing of repenting and returning to God.
We need to pray for Josh Harris.