Does Jesus forgive you? Yes. Anybody care? Not really

After doing wrong, we usually want everything to be all right. If we can patch things up with minimal cost and personal discomfort, so much the better.

Josh Duggar’s got a steep hill to climb, and I have no intention of piling on, but something about his public statement galls me. Here’s the full thing with some additional emphases:

Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation. We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.

That’s more than twenty personal references and only two passing nods to his victims and the harm he inflicted. What’s more, he blunts the second reference. In the first he mentions people he “hurt,” but the second only mentions “those affected by my actions.”

And it gets even worse at the end because Duggar plays the Jesus card. He asked Christ for pardon, he says, and we should all know that he’s grateful for the forgiveness.

It’s impossible to escape the idea that the entire focus of Josh Duggar’s statement is Josh Duggar being okay with Josh Duggar. As if anyone cares about that.

This seems like a wider issue. Public apologies very often feature people saying they accept full responsibility without actually accepting any. And the religious version of this is particularly irksome because the offender doesn’t really feign any acceptance of responsibility. Jesus already has it covered, and the rest of us better not judge.

It just doesn’t work. Why?

When confession was made in the ancient church, it was not wholly about righting oneself with God, though that was obviously part of it. It was also about repairing the breach in the community caused by the wrong. The priest to whom one confessed brokered the various peaces and set the necessary restitutions in his parish.

Sin is a communal problem and requires communal redress. What’s galling about Josh Duggar’s statement is that it’s all about him. It’s as if the victims don’t really factor.

Worse, we’re supposed to rest easy. Josh Duggar is off the hook because Jesus has taken care of the mess. That may be true so far as it goes. It just doesn’t go far enough. And that’s why public “apologies” that reference God this way are so unsatisfying. The admission is totally beside the point.

This is not unkind or unspiritual. Even Jesus said a person at odds with his neighbor must work that out before going to the temple.

The community still needs some measure of redress, regardless of what an offender and Jesus have worked out on the side. Without that, it’s not confession. It’s just another form of evasion.

Image credit: Internet Archive.


  1. I think Christian’s forget that while forgiven you still have to face consequences for actions. Samson was forgiven, but the temple of Baal still crumbled on his head for his arrogance. The thief on the cross was forgiven, but he still died next to Christ. It’s as if people assume that repercussions won’t come if they just ask forgiveness. Eternal? Sure. Here on Earth? No way, man. If you play with fire, you’re going to burn your friggin house down.

    1. I once heard a minister put it this way. If you get into a fight with your neighbor, God will forgive you, but that won’t fix your black eye. Nor will it fix things with your neighbor.

  2. “Sin is a communal problem and requires communal redress.”

    Is all sin communal, requiring communal address? Of course not. If I lash out verbally at my wife in anger before church on Sunday morning, do I need to confess before the church? No. We’ve been given a biblical process to deal with sin in the church and it starts with only the individuals directly involved. Obviously Duggar’s offense is much more grievous and has many more people involved. But I don’t think that it necessarily makes it a “communal” problem. Especially when the community involves internet commentators and bloggers.

    “The community still needs some measure of redress, regardless of what an offender and Jesus have worked out on the side.”

    As I understand it, this was sin that victimized young women. The women (and their immediate families) are the victims. How is the community a co-victim here? Has Duggar sinned against you and I? It seems to minimize the actual victim’s plight, by making us out to be part of the offended party. It really doesn’t matter if I’m OK with his public apology or not, because I was not publicly sinned against. I also wouldn’t assume that this public confession was his only confession and address of the problem. This sin is over a decade old, and we don’t know what he has said and done as far as personal repentance and apology to the young women over this time.

    1. By community, I am including the victims. But all sin is communal. It’s naive to think otherwise. That’s all the more obvious for a public figure, but it’s true even for private sins.

    2. @Nate….individuals make up families who make up communities. To suggest crime, particularly such deeply painful and powerful ones do not inflict harm upon a community is to, and I say this with respect, quite ignorant of crimes impact. Merely because an offense is–as are sexual offenses–so difficult to acknowledge because of the depth of the wound does not mean it impacts a community any less than a violent crime splashed across the screen. In fact, I would argue that the hidden crimes (1/3 of all sexual crimes occur to children under the age of 11) are of a greater distress to a community than the out-in-the-open crimes are. The loss that occurs to a community from such hidden crimes is finally being measured. Devastating emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually to the victim….Individual’s that often struggle for life to find their true self, become who they were meant to become and who, are your and my neighbor’s. The community.

  3. I read the quote above that you attributed to Josh Dugger and I honestly see nothing wrong with it. It sounds like he is remorseful and regretful and it sounds like he repented of whatever it is that he did (I know nothing about what he did and don’t really need to know). Sounds to me like you’re just looking for something to complain about/blog about.

    1. Funny how it’s all about Josh? Where are the victim’s statement’s? Sorry John, but having worked in the field for many, many years, this is the classic tactic utilized. Make it about the offender, his remorse, his forgiveness, his… Who do the girls ask forgiveness for? Ironic is it not that a child, not guilty of anything, must live with the guilt of the offender and yet, having not done anything wrong finds themselves stuck with the burden of guilt that no one can remove because, well, they committed no offense. Josh will go around and make this about his forgiveness, those girls get to live with the fact he can claim as such (true of not I do not know) but they cannot. They get the chance to live with his shame, Josh get’s to live free of it because it is heaped upon the girls. I’m sure they appreciate those who will assist in Josh’s heaping it upon them too. Maybe drop them a line and tell them to get over it John, that’ll help.

  4. Hi Joel,
    This is an excellent catch on your part. As someone with both advanced Theological degrees and more than a decade of working with victims of sexual crimes, I can tell that in both arena’s, it is not about the self. Meaning, our apologies for wrongdoing are never about the self; they cannot be. I’ve often said that in my view, the book of Job is about 1 sin. That of pride. Until forced to admit it was God and not he who was all powerful; thus humbling himself, did God show mercy. Sadly, Duggar’s admission and apology wreaked of someone who is sorry not for what he did, but of the consequence of being known. Jesus’ forgiveness is a distinct issue from the many those girls will deal with. I’ve seen it dozens and dozens and dozens of times. The family makes it all look and sound good-for the offender at least-but at some point in the future those girls will recognize the wrongness of it all, deep down, and only then will their true hurt and feelings be revealed. I won’t dwell further, but will simply add that you are absolutely correct Mr. Miller. The sadness of it all is that Josh will go on without a hint of guilt while those girls will live forever with the scars of his shamelessness.

  5. I see an awful lot of supposition and assumption in this “article”. For one thing, your starting premise is basically that his apology is self-focused, so it’s not a real apology, or at the very least a good one. You then measure this by how often he refers to himself. The number of first-person pronouns is not exactly a defining metric for the sincerity or authenticity of repentance. You appear to be “straining at a gnat” with this one. By the way, the model for repentance shown by David – “…against you alone Lord have ‘I’ sinned… When ‘I’ kept silent… when ‘I’ confessed ‘my’ sin to you… restore unto ‘me’ the joy of your salvation… renew a right spirit within ‘me'”- features first person pronouns quite prominently. The kind of logic you present here is pretty thin.
    Further, with regards to your case for “redress” to the community.
    “The community still needs some measure of redress, regardless of what an offender and Jesus have worked out on the side.”
    I ask, what community? What redress? Are you the victim? Josh Duggar doesn’t owe you or I anything, and if he did, he’s paid it as far as I’m concerned. If you want more from him you can get in the line. If the law has given him leniency, the statutes have expired, counseling has been sought, the victims have been apologized to – then what? In fact, if they have forgiven him what right do we have to hold anything against him? What, then is the “redress” you seek? Prison? Even if it were possible would it help anything? Perhaps public shaming? We can make him wear a scarlet “M”…
    No, this has more to do with the fact that his sin seems “dirty” to us. But oh, if Josh had had a greed problem, a gambling problem, a drinking or drug problem, even a gluttony problem, would we want him to march up and down confessing it to everyone in the world? Would it be any of our business? But he had a “shameful” lust problem, and now it’s everyone’s business! And what, sir, of your own sin. When you publicly confess for all the secret, shameful things you have done, then your case against him might stand stronger. You said yourself “All sin is communal”, so I expect a list of all your sins. Including thoughts. I have no inkling of whether or not Josh Duggar is sincere. I did not know him before this, and I know very little of him now. I will take his apology at face value, and assume the best.I would rather to that and be proven wrong than to assume the worst and be proven right. Or we can waste time italicizing pronouns…

    With regards to the commentors who made these statements:
    “Where are the victim’s statement’s?” – This almost doesn’t need reply, but, honestly, how can he make a statement for someone else?
    And this one “The sadness of it all is that Josh will go on without a hint of guilt while those girls will live forever with the scars of his shamelessness.” – How exactly can you know what he is thinking or feeling or dealing with? You can’t, so at the very least this sentence is meaningless. The rest is between him, them, and God.

    Forgive me if this may come across as stern but nonetheless I feel it needs to be said. I am nothing more than a sinner saved by grace myself. Some of us feel the pain and guilt of our sins everyday. We have changed our ways, but still hurt. Sin damages, and it is truly painful. This is worse than a “black eye” – as you said – “God will forgive you, but that won’t fix your black eye. Nor will it fix things with your neighbor.” No, but neither will fifty lashes, or a few days in the stockade.

    1. Psalm 51 doesn’t really apply here. David’s prayer are the words of a man confessing directly to God for his sins. Josh Duggar was “confessing” to the rest of us. We use Psalm 51 to confess to God as well. We don’t use it to confess to each other.

      The issue I have with the statement is that it’s insufficient. It ignores, as I said, the communal aspect of his sin. Going back to the example of David, it’s as if Uriah had no rights, that he was just a pawn in a drama about David. But Uriah did have rights, which is what made David’s sin so egregious.

      The reason Jesus says that we have to be reconciled to our brother before worshipping is that the human-to-human relationship matters, community matters, other people matter. That’s why there are two tablets of the Law. That’s why the summary of the Law is loving God and neighbor.

      In our individualistic age, it’s easy (and very convenient) to ignore that. Sure, I’ve behaved badly, but me and the Lord are tight, so bug off. That doesn’t fly.

      What should the redress be? Hard to say. If Josh Duggar weren’t a public figure, it would look much different. His community is considerably larger than many. But even the small-scope scenario is troubling.

      He and the girls supposedly received counseling to address the trauma he caused. The program was run by Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles. Not only did Gothard recently step down from his organization after being accused of fondling girls himself, the program curricula is terrible. Feel free to read some of it here.

      To be clear, I have not said that Josh Duggar is somehow beyond forgiveness. I just said that’s not enough. And it’s not. I don’t know exactly what redress would be appropriate. But Josh Duggar doesn’t appear to be remotely aware that any is needed. That’s what’s galling.

      1. To begin with, thank you for your reply.
        You present a few points, however that need clarification. To start off, I never said Psalm 51 should be his only words, I merely pointed out the logical inconsistency with decrying an apology for too much use of the first person. This argument is merely misdirection. Whether confession is made to God or man, it cannot help but be personal. I am saying that your first argument is thin.
        What is galling is the amount of supposition, presumption, and assumption of someone else’s feelings and thoughts, about which you and I ultimately know nothing. Almost everything in this “article” is subjective and interpreted. Here are some of your quotes:
        “The issue ‘I’ have”
        “but something about his public statement galls ‘me'”
        “‘I’ just said that’s not enough.”
        “‘I’ don’t know exactly what redress would be appropriate.”
        You are speaking as if you were the personally offended party and you need redress, but it’s not about you, Mr. Miller. You are acting as if the community is the victim. The community is not Uriah.
        You read into his statements your reception (or perhaps perception) of it and then tackle it as if it were his words. For example:
        “It’s impossible to escape the idea that the entire focus of Josh Duggar’s statement is Josh Duggar being okay with Josh Duggar.”
        – No. Evidently it’s not impossible to escape that thought since I and many other people have never had that impression from his statement. This is nothing more than your opinion no matter how much you dress it up.
        “Sure, I’ve behaved badly, but me and the Lord are tight, so bug off.”
        -Again, these are your words, not his. He never said anything of the like.
        “But Josh Duggar doesn’t appear to be remotely aware that any is needed.”
        -Again. You know this as a fact? How much supposition and opinion can you fit into here?

        You are calling for more redress, and yet you can’t even tell anyone what form that should take. “I don’t know exactly what redress would be appropriate.” That should be a pretty big indicator that something is wrong here. If the redress is not fairly self-evident then it is something more than redress.

        I am not going to go into the argument about whether or not his counseling was sufficient. I don’t even know who Bill Gothard is let alone his teaching. But it’s possible that his counselor was not his choice. That is mere speculation on my part. It’s also possible that no counseling was needed at all. Likely? Probably not. Possible? Yes.

        In your defense I do think his apology statement could have included something along the lines of “I am also very sorry for the damage I have done to my family and the larger body of Christ by my sins. I ask for their forgiveness.” Since he is a “public figure” this perhaps would help mend things. But I didn’t write his apology, and I’m not going to hang a man based on how good or bad I think his apology is written. Unfortunately there are many for whom no apology will be good enough (just browsing the self-appointed jury of bloggers and internet commentators will show this). I honestly believe you are not of that group of thinkers.

        With respect I suggest prayer. Pray for the victims. Pray for Josh Duggar. Pray for his family. Pray that the name of Jesus will not suffer more shame because of this. And pray for ourselves – that if I am wrong about this then God will convict me and soften my heart, and you as well.

        1. My conclusion that “Josh Duggar doesn’t appear to be remotely aware that any [redress] is needed” comes directly from the public statement. There’s nothing there that would indicate his thinking on the issue is much broader than himself.

          Your suggested prayers are very welcome.

          1. We will have to agree to disagree about your conclusion coming directly from his statement. I find it an “argumentum ex silentio” But I don’t wish to argue. We can respectfully disagree.

            I would welcome your prayers as well, thank you.

          2. Joel and Sinner Saved by Grace,
            I read your exchange with interest as well as Mr. Duggar’s statement. Good discussion. It seems to me that the actual apology and redress was accomplished 12 years ago and what we have now is the result of sealed court records being unethically disclosed. I have no idea what transpired over a decade ago or how it was dealt with. To speculate about what is in another man’s heart is an enterprise best avoided unless we were directly involved and are in need of healing. It is a shame that the tyranny of social media will do its best now to destroy the life of this man, not because of his actions but because he is identified with Christ.

  6. Ironic that you see a lot of supposition yet state: “With regards to the commenters who made these statements: “Where are the victim’s statement’s?” – This almost doesn’t need reply, but, honestly, how can he make a statement for someone else? Your supposition being entirely off target since the statement was both clear and unequivocal “Where are the Victim’s statements”; thus, when we hear from them. Please clarify why this “almost doesn’t need reply?” Thank you.

    Utilizing a condescending tone (straining a gnat, errant suppositions on your part) further demonstrates the weakness of your argument rather than supporting it. While First Person is no defining metric; taken contextually (um…Josh’s statement not the Psalmist’s), it is very clear Josh’s apology demonstrates little remorse. Sorry, but it doesn’t. If you’ve worked in the Criminal Justice field with this type of offender and victim, that view would pop into clarity. Please don’t confuse Joel (I know him not) or my views on this apology as condemnation; rather, we both see things in it that other’s often do not.

    With regards to redress it does have to do with that shamefulness of his acts. Those girl’s bodies he violated will battle relentlessly with the shame of it. Again, had you knowledge of such crime’s depth of trauma and impact upon a child you know not to compare the impact with other offenses Coded into law. While you are partially correct “if the victims have forgiven him then we cannot hold anything against him”; as noted in my prior statement, where are their statement’s regarding what he has done and their forgiveness? In fact, it has become knowledge that the girls never felt safe with him in the home. I’m sorry, but you are entirely wrong here.

    Josh himself stated his forgiveness (guilt free according to the scriptures-am I not correct?) from the Lord. Please do not confuse my statements with Josh’s; again, doing so will only shine light on the weakness of you argument, as will utilizing such terms as “meaningless.” While meaningless to you, I can promise you they will have power with others. You say the rest is between him, them, and God. Yet how do you answer that this family clearly promoted situational and relative Christianity to a duped American public? Is this not a communal harm? The father called for the death sentence, while running for public office, for those who committed incest while at the very time hiding the secret shame of his eldest? You answer to that? Or, in your view is there no communal harm when public figures lie to us for personal gain? Is that not what is wrong with so many of our public figures; that they can get away with whatever and an any cost, even if at the expense of their sexually abused child?

    Stern? Sorry, you’ll have to do better.

    A great sinner reformed whose role it is to call out the hypocrisy of those who have not…Is not that Christ’s model? How often did He confront the hypocrite in the scriptures? Ask yourself if, apart from saving the lost, His most targeted and directed audience was not the self-professed Christian hypocrite that sadly America has become filled to the brim with.

    1. I will keep this brief, since, as I said, I have no interest in arguing. But you asked for a clarification so I owe you that much.

      My statement regarding your call for victims statements stands. There is no supposition in it. It is a point of fact. While criticizing a persons apology you ask the question “Where are the victims’ statements?”… That is neither here nor there in a discussion about Josh’s statement. It simply does not pertain. The issue I took with your statement was a logical one. The rest I will deal with as a list to save time on writing.

      A) “straining at a gnat”
      – This was not meant to simply be condescending, but factual. I was pointing out what you admit with your very next sentence: “While First Person is no defining metric”

      B)”While First Person is no defining metric; taken contextually (um…Josh’s statement not the Psalmist’s)…
      -Again, I never said that Josh’s statement was David’s. I never said it wasn’t. You are mistaking illustration for evidence. I am pointing out only that the very best of confessions and apologies feature the first person pronoun frequently. So the little “emphasis added” trick is meaningless. To put it another way, in the most fundamentally minimal of all apologies 50% of the words are in the first person – “I’m Sorry.” The entire first part of this “critique” of his confession is superfluous, so I will stop beating a dead horse here.

      C) “it is very clear Josh’s apology demonstrates little remorse.”
      -Assumption. Perception. Interpretation. No. It is not very clear. Not to many people. If by “very clear” you mean self-evident, then it’s opposite could not be intellectually admitted by anyone. This is not the case. If by “very clear” you mean only with a certain intuition, then that is subjective.

      D)”If you’ve worked in the Criminal Justice field with this type of offender and victim, that view would pop into clarity.”
      -So because you say you’ve worked with other people of “this type”? This assumes by reading a few articles you know what “type” Josh is? How do you know he is not different? How do I know? I don’t. But the difference is I will admit ignorance on the matter.
      – A is always the same as B. I’ve dealt with B, therefore I’ve dealt with A. Assumes A and B to be the same which is knowledge we plainly do not have.

      E)”we both see things in it that other’s often do not”
      -Was this revealed to you by God? Because if this is based on your own deductions then forgive me for not admitting this as a form of evidence or argument.

      F)”had you knowledge of such crime’s depth”
      – Now you are making assumptions about me. You don’t know anything about me yet you can assume I have no “knowledge” on this matter.

      G)”if the victims have forgiven him” … “I’m sorry, but you are entirely wrong here.”
      -How can one be wrong when no claim has been made. You are claiming he lacks sincerity. I’m not claiming he is sincere or not. What I am saying is that it’s not our place to make that claim.

      H)”Josh himself stated his…their sexually abused child”
      1) I’m not going to critique Josh’s sincerity based on his father’s words, or anyone else in his family.
      2)More and more evidence is bound to come out. Albeit filtered through a notoriously unreliable medium of journalists and bloggers.

      I) Lastly – “A great sinner reformed whose role it is to call out the hypocrisy of those who have not…Is not that Christ’s model?” … “filled to the brim with.”
      – I trust you simply wrote this hurriedly and are not implying that Christ was a “reformed sinner”. This paragraph is interesting, however, and deserves addressing.
      1) Christ was the savior of the world. He lifted the lowly and lowered the proud. Often he called out the hypocrite. But two very critical distinctions should be made here. Christ, being wholly God, could know the hearts and thoughts of men, YOU do not. While the Christian can call out an obvious or egregious hypocrisy, for the sake of bringing repentance and protecting the flock, this should be based on discernment by mature Christians of STRONG evidence, not simply contrived from a break-down of a paragraph and few opinions.
      2) The entirety of this argument hangs on you KNOWING that Josh and/or his entire family are hypocrite’s, which, unless this was divinely revealed to you or you are much more personally involved in this matter, you simply could not know at all from his quoted statement. None of us can. That is entirely my point.

      This commentary needs to stop before it derails entirely. My earlier statement on your comment should have been laid out in a more clear and concise manner. I apologize for responding to you in the way I did. I appreciate your input, and as I said to Joel, I will pray for the best result of this matter, and that my own heart may not make judgments that it shouldn’t. Thank you for your discussion on the matter. I will end with saying that G Knight’s commentary said more in one sentence than I have said in a hundred, and so I should really give up writing:
      “To speculate about what is in another man’s heart is an enterprise best avoided unless we were directly involved and are in need of healing. ”
      Well said G Knight. I will leave it at that.

      1. You are correct, someone must be brief since, as you point out, the conversation has gotten off track from Mr. Miller’s correct analysis of the Duggar public apology (why this public apology if it is not a communal harm?). By confusing Mr. Miller’s and my words with the Duggars’, along with moving the argument in another direction your adamant attempt to build a bridge for Josh’s defense becomes an acknowledged yet unsuccessfful tactic. To enter into typology will add nothing since doing so would only weaken what little solidity and structure the design of that bridge has. Feel free to add it however. I do appreciate your efforts, as I’m sure will the stone throwing (capital punishment for those that commit incest) hypcritical (unless it’s my child) Duggar men.

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