On the surface, Carl Lentz is almost a perfect parody of the hip, trendy, mega-church minister that seemingly spends more time in front of his make-up mirror than his Bible, more time consulting stylists than commentaries. But writing off this pastor-to-the-celebrities of Los Angeles and New York City in such a way would be the textbook definition of judging a book by its cover – something that God warned His prophet Samuel not to do when searching for His chosen king: “For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
In other words, while ministers of the Gospel of Jesus prancing around in “black Nudie jeans and black T-shirts purchased at the hip boutique Oak” aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, the Kingdom of God is more important to me than my tea. If wearing skinny jeans and Saint Laurent boots (another staple of Lentz’s fashion-conscious approach to ministry) is what brings celebrities like Justin Bieber, Hailey Baldwin, Vanessa Hudgens, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant and a host of other models, stars, and athletes in to Lentz’s Hillsong Church to hear the redemptive power of God’s Word, I’m thrilled. Because they need to hear it. We all do.
Unfortunately, last week Lentz went on ABC’s “The View,” and it wasn’t his outward appearance that had true believers in Christ cringing – it was his heart. Pressed on what is one of the easiest questions to answer for anyone truly seeking the heart of Christ, Lentz fell flat on his face:
“So, it’s not a sin in your church to have an abortion?” pro-abortion host Joy Behar asked.
Let’s pause here to acknowledge the only appropriate response a man or woman of God gives to this question:
“Joy, sin isn’t something that is determined by a church. There can’t be a sin in my church that isn’t a sin is someone else’s church. That kind of understanding of sin leans on our own understanding rather than trusting in God. At our church, we follow the admonition of Proverbs 3:5-6 and we calibrate our moral compass, our understanding of sin off of the only reliable foundation – God’s word. And the word tells us unequivocally that human beings bear the image of God Himself, no matter the circumstances of their conception. As believers in that truth, we certainly recognize it is sinful to take the life of another human made in God’s image.”
But that isn’t how Lentz answered.
Lentz responded: “That’s the kind of conversation we would have finding out your story, where you’re from, what you believe. … I mean, God’s the judge. People have to live to their own convictions. That’s such a broad question, to me, I’m going higher. I want to sit with somebody and say, ‘What do you believe?’”
I have tried – truly tried – to be as generous and charitable in analyzing this response as I possibly can be. And I sincerely find no way to square any of this with the language of someone whose heart is in line with the heart of God. This is tragic capitulation, compromise, and confusion packaged in a manner that wrongly claims some sort of moral high ground (i.e., “I’m going higher”).
“So it’s not an open and shut case to you?” Behar asked. “Some people would say it is,” Lentz responded. “To me, I’m trying to teach people who Jesus is first, and find out their story. Before I start picking and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”
Jesus told us, “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). In these shocking few seconds, Carl Lentz revealed what his heart is full of – may God forgive him.
There is a reason that Scripture warns, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Carl Lentz should acknowledge this warning, repent, and resign. Not for my sake, not for the cause of the unborn, but for himself.
Because what Lentz demonstrated is not just a frightening willingness to scratch the itching ears of sinful men (2 Timothy 4:4), or a love for human praise more than praise from God (John 12: 43), but he revealed that he is willing to set up stumbling blocks for sinners to remain deceived (1 Corinthians 8:9) rather than open himself up to God to use as a vessel or conduit to convict the hearts of men with eternal Truth (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Carl Lentz was given his moment to defend the “least of these.” He chose to pass.