Friday, February 1, 2008

Saying Sorry Isn't Enough

Like most metro-Detroiters, I was eager to see the Mayor Kilpatrick's apology earlier this week. It was not a pleasant thing and it was particularly painful to watch his wife during the broadcast. What a difficult position for her. Nevertheless, I believe it was certainly appropriate for him to apologize for his behavior, though he was vague in discussing what that behavior really was. I also believe, however, he has to face the fact that as a public figure and particularly as the leader of the city of Detroit and a recognizable face for the entire metro region, the standards of conduct for him are higher and his actions fueled with public funds and hidden with Mayoral authority cannot be considered private. There is no evading those standards, especially when his misconduct is linked directly to dalliances with his subordinate and gross misuse of the money with which he has been entrusted while supposedly on the job.

It appears that Mayor Kilpatrick is under the misperception that he has imperial rights to behave outside the boundaries of the law, instead of a democratic responsibility to set an example of good citizenship within it. How can he call for law enforcement when he himself does not behave within the confines of the law? How can he address young people and call them to responsible lifestyles, when his own lifestyle is so irresponsible? His word seems to have little value and even less authority. Even when he issued his first public statement after the text scandal broke, saying that this kind of behavior was behind him and he had made things right with his wife regarding this adulterous pattern years ago, his behavior just last week with another woman at a NC hotel is totally at odds with his words. Not to mention, of course, his apparently false statements made under oath last year.

Do I believe he should be forgiven? He says he is a Christian and has sought pastoral guidance and God's forgiveness. This is good and of course God's forgiveness is always available at all times to anyone who earnestly asks. Nevertheless, the Lord calls leaders to a higher standard, and with the forgiveness of sin comes the consequences of poor judgment. We may be saved from the eternal penalty of our sin and from broken fellowship with God, but not always from the damage we have set in motion by our disobedient actions. King David was forgiven, but a child died, a kingdom was divided and his family was turned upside down for generations because of his scheming, adultery and his killing of an innocent man. The Mayor has been given many chances in the past and should have known he would be under greater scrutiny and that his past misdeeds were being overlooked to give him a chance to do better - that's how he won the last election and that's what he promised to keep in mind after his victory. His actions show that though he is sorry for the being caught, he is most concerned about avoiding consequences, not in facing his issues. It doesn't appear that there are any "Nathan's" in his life, including his pastor, who can say to him, "You are the man who has sinned and you are the man who needs to deal with this. In this matter, the Lord is not with you. Stop trying to hold onto your power and start trying to get a grip on your God!" He needs to go to church on his knees in repentance, not stroll into church in his pride for political avoidance.

At this point, what happens to his administration is up to the law. If the Mayor was really interested in demonstrating godly manhood and character to his sons, he wouldn't hide behind his mistress (through her resignation), his bodyguards (through physical intimidation of reporters) or his family (by calling on the press not to harass them, when there is no evidence they have done so). Instead, he would 'fess up, step down and ride higher than he has ever ridden in the forgiveness and restoration that is available in Jesus. The Lord has an amazing way of restoring what the locusts have eaten and even what we ourselves have burned up if we turn to Him in humility. The Bible says that God is "opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble". If the mayor is going to save his life, heal his family and have any chance at real public redemption, he needs to lose his pride (and his job) and find some humility and the new direction that can come with it. That way, even at the cost of his job, he just may find the joy, freedom and power he has been seeking in all the wrong places. Where sin abounds, grace can abound all the more, but only in the light of truth, moral courage and selflessness.

The Mayor desperately needs to find his way and relieve the city of the cloud of shame that his actions have brought on it. My prayer and hope for him is that he will do it by choice not by force. Only time will tell. Until next time...


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