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How important is it to you that the “good guy” (whoever that may be for you) is always right? Let’s take an example from the Bible and some pretty good guys, the apostles:

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, “He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father.” Go and wait. That must have been very hard for an antsy man like Peter, who had emerged as the leader of the apostles. So he went, and waited . . . and read? He decides that they need to pick another apostle to take the place of Judas. So they pray and nominate two guys, Justus and Matthias, and cast lots. The lots fall to Matthias, who became the new 12th apostle.

Or was he?The main distinction of “the 12” is that they were chosen by Jesus. Now it is true that God is shown to have used lots to show his will throughout the Bible, but there is no indication that was the case in this instance.  We do know that Jesus did personally pick Paul in the whole “knock you off your donkey, blind you, and deliver you into the hands of the people you’ve been trying to kill” episode. You gotta love Jesus’ style.

So, did the apostles screw up in choosing Matthias? I think maybe they did. (I’m not a theologian. This is not a hill to die on; it’s just my opinion.) We know it wasn’t the first or the last time Peter messed up. But it seems pretty clear that Matthias (although I’m sure a delightful man who may or may not have been a missionary to cannibals) was not the replacement for Judas. I think Peter messed up. And I think I know the secret of why he messed up. Ready?

Here’s the secret: He was human. I know. It’s shocking. But the truth is that the Apostle Peter was indeed human, sinful, fallen, a hot mess, etc. Like all human beings, Peter was prone to messing up.

In a Facebook exchange with a friend of a friend (i.e. not someone I know), the person seemed pretty upset that the Apostles might have messed up here. You could tell that she was shaken up at the idea that not just Peter, but all the apostles and the disciples waiting for the Holy Spirit could make a fairly big mistake. And it is a little disconcerting — even heartbreaking.

It’s one thing to have our hearts broken by a love interest, it’s something else entirely to have your heart broken by someone whom you have placed your faith in. We tend to fall for public figures: pastors, politicians, celebrities and the like. We become fans, not only of performers but of all public figures: Fans of politicians. Fans of pastors. Fans of business leaders. We consume their work, quote them, and idealize them. And when our heroes fall, or even just slip, we tend to react in one of two ways:

not listening(Yes, that’s an actual product.)

We excuse, minimize, or flat-out ignore shortcomings — even gross sins that hurt others. We don’t want to believe what clear evidence shows. There must be a reason, they were set up, it’s not as bad as it looks, etc. Take Anthony Weiner, the politician who was caught sending unsavory pictures to young women. After initially trying to deny it, he stood up at a press conference and admitted his wrongdoing. Do you know there are still people who still think he was framed? Bless their hearts.
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The other typical reaction is something like this:

scorched earth

Someone we admire does wrong and we feel hurt and betrayed — personally hurt and betrayed. And so any good, any benefit, anything positive we’ve received from that person is now suspect. They aren’t just wrong, they are rotten to the core. What would be an annoying but not particularly horrific character flaw in the average Joe is seen as an example of the disgraced character’s complete depravity. Sometimes we’ll even attack their former hero with a zeal that surpasses our earlier idolatry. And I wonder if that’s less from righteous indignation than from being embarrassed at supporting someone who had the audacity to be human.

I don’t know if we’re less able to deal with the idea of the complexity of human nature now than in the past, or if we’re just unable to deal with complexity in those we idolize, but I have only one thing to say about it: Knock it off.

People are messy. People who have achieved success and fame are just as prone to sin as “the little guy.” They make mistakes. They hold wrong and sometimes hurtful beliefs alongside good and helpful beliefs. They may behave admirably one day and turn around and behave awfully the next. That’s the epitome of human nature, and success doesn’t inoculate people from human nature.

Yes, we have to make judgments about whose teachings to listen to, whose advice to take. With politicians, we make decisions about whom to trust to represent us and to participate in making our laws. By nature of the roles, these people will be well-known and their voices will carry more weight than yours or mine. But: Stop. Being. A. Fan.

We have to stop putting our faith in the wrong people.  For most of us, the politicians, pastors, and other public figures we place our trust in our complete strangers. I think we can learn and benefit a lot from complete strangers, but the key is in analyzing and judging what they say and do rationally. Once you fall in love, you enter the denial/scorched earth danger zone.

If you aren’t a fan, then you have some emotional distance that will help you make rational decisions when the mighty fall. Because they will fall. (See that whole “being human” argument above.) And you might decide that sending crotch shots to strangers or taking secret trips out of the country to visit your mistress, while not necessarily admirable, don’t preclude someone from public service.  And I really can’t believe these are two actual circumstances in American politics today. God help us.

You might think that someone’s sin, while important to acknowledge and deal with, doesn’t eliminate his good works. Or you might conclude that their screw-ups are indicative of a deeper problem that would lead you to not follow their teachings or want them to represent you or however you’ve appreciated that person in the past. But you can make these decisions based on the evidence at hand, not from your broken heart.

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