My first memory of you was in Olympia, Washington standing in my driveway as a grinning kid when you were about nine years old. I saw you many times as your dad and I spoke at many conferences over the years.
How can I forget that meeting in the lobby of a hotel in Rochester, New York when you told me you had signed a book deal for "I Kissed Dating Goodbye"? I told you it was a bad title and wouldn't sell. Of course, it outsold everything I have ever written by a wide margin.
The last time I saw you was at your dear mother's funeral. (I can't recall if you were at your brothers' graduation from Patrick Henry College.)
We knew each other very well for many years. And I loved you like a younger brother. And still do.
I don't think I can reach you in private and what you have said and done is very public, so I am reaching out to you in this way.
You have walked away from your marriage. That's not right. You have walked away from your faith in Christ. That's even worse.
This says nothing about Jesus and a great deal about you.
Jesus told us there would be false prophets and teachers among us. Your story doesn't invalidate Christ's message because He predicted that people would do exactly what you have done. I just didn't expect it would ever be you.
I do commend you for the intellectual integrity for recognizing that your secondary views (embracing the LGBT agenda, etc.) are utterly inconsistent with Christianity—as is your view that it is ok to walk away from your marriage for the reasons you have stated. Both of these proved that you had renounced Christianity before you said so publicly.
My heart aches for you in so many ways. It seems that you thought that Christianity was a series of formulas. Formulas for marriage. Formulas for systematic theology. Fear of choosing the wrong formula. Fear of failing to live up to your formula.
You know that I believe in the general approach to courtship that made you famous and pretty rich. You included the story of my oldest daughter and her husband in your second book.
I still believe that purity of mind and body before marriage is the right ideal. But it is not a formula for a happy marriage. It is simply a guiding principle that has to be applied with wisdom, grace, and often forgiveness.
I would never reach this conclusion about you on my own but what you have said yourself can be fairly summarized as this: you thought your faith and your marriage were based on formulas. They never went deeper than that.
Jesus says about people like you that in the last judgment, He will say, "Depart from me, I never knew you."
You know that this means you never actually knew Him.
As immersed as you were in Christian culture and a career as a pastor, you never actually knew Jesus.
It gives me only heart ache to say these things to you. And Jesus will take no pleasure in pronouncing those words in judgment of you or anyone.
You haven't walked away from a relationship with Jesus. You have walked away from the culture you were raised in.
Jesus still loves you at this moment. And so do I and countless others. And I will love you no matter what in the days ahead. But my love is tinged in deep sadness.
Josh, you and your story are not the measure of the validity of Christianity.
Jesus is real. He doesn't want you to return to your prior formulas. He wants you to come to Him for the first time and learn to love.
I am praying for you, Josh.
With love and sorrow.