Amid developments involving Bill Cosby’s alleged sexual misconduct and assaults, former admirers of “America’s Dad” have to reconcile with the truth, but which truth?
The impossible had happened. Hero and all-time favorite of baseball lovers everywhere, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, had been indicted for doing something no fan can forgive—throwing a World Series. In 1919, he along with several of his Chicago White Sox teammates were accused of accepting $5000 each for turning their backs on their team right when they needed them most.
The next year, a grand jury made its decision. Guilty as charged. A reporter for the Chicago Daily News wrote what can best be described as a regretful tribute headline for his article on the fateful decision. “Say It Ain’t So, Joe,” announced to the world that a hero had fallen.
Recently, I found myself saying the same thing, except the name had been changed. With a heart heavy with sadness, I moaned, “Say it ain’t so, Bill. Say it ain’t so.”
Bill Cosby brought a breath of fresh air to 1980s television. We fell in love with the Huxtable family and enjoyed their adventures (and misadventures) through eight seasons of “Must See TV.” Claire, Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy came into our living rooms and made us laugh, cry, be inspired, and wonder. But, it was the father figure, Dr. Clifford Huxtable that kept everything together. Wise, insightful, childlike, fun-loving, romantic, and passionate, Cliff moved an entire generation of young people to do more, reach further, remain honest, respect others, and work hard to accomplish their dreams.
But, it seems, there was a problem. According to an ever-growing number of women, the man behind the character of Dr. Clifford Huxtable wasn’t following his own scripts. The kind-hearted sitcom physician would have banned someone with that reputation from coming anywhere near his family. As of this writing, Bill Cosby is out on a million dollar bail bond after being charged with a felony in connection with rape accusations brought against him. His career, his reputation, his standing in the community, has vanished. He is facing years of court battles and possible prison.
Say it ain’t so, Bill.
When a Hero Falls
So, what do you do when a hero falls; when a man or woman you’ve looked up to, admired, even patterned your life or career after, turns up so horribly flawed? What do you do with their past inspiration, motivation, and even words of encouragement and support?
The answer is found where many answers reside—in God’s Word.
Hot-headed Moses kills an Egyptian guard and runs to the desert to escape the law only to find God waiting for him there, sitting serenely in a burning bush, offering him the important job of saving a nation of slaves (Exodus 3). What?
Shepherd-boy-turned-king David does Bill Cosby one better. He sends the husband of the woman after whom he was lusting (slept with and impregnated) to certain death in battle. All this in order to clear the way for his romantic advances on the grieving widow. In time, God would describe this immoral fellow as “a man after mine own heart” (Acts 13:22). Excuse me?
The well-seasoned thief, dying on a Roman cross for crimes he did commit, is told by Jesus who is dying beside him for crimes He didn’t commit, “You will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Come again?
Saul, blinded by a heavenly light on the road to Damascus, is challenged to make a slight adjustment to his career path. He’s told to stop killing Christian converts and to begin creating them (Acts 26:14). Really?
And then there’s you, and me. We know what we are. We know what we’ve done. We know that if God held His standard of excellence too high, we’d both be out of the running.
But something very interesting happens when God connects with a human being. Who we are, what we’ve done, all of our mistakes and missteps and errors in judgment and downright foolishness falls by the wayside. God sees something we don’t. He sees truth in us. And sin can’t tarnish truth.
Master of the Mix
Satan himself told the truth when it suited him. He was the master of mixing truth with error in such a way that the end result generated absolute train wrecks in the lives of those willing to heed his ramblings. When Eve explained that she’d been instructed by God not to eat the fruit of a certain tree in the Garden of Eden on fear of death, Satan quickly responds, “You will not certainly die” (lie) … “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (truth) (Geneses 3:4, 5, NIV).
We all know how well that turned out.
But the point is that truth is truth no matter who’s saying it. It can fall from the lips of a saint or a sinner and still remain just as powerful, correct, and life changing.
When Moses lifted his hand above the waters of the Red Sea—a hand bloodstained by a murder he’d committed years before—the waves still parted. When David wrote his songs of praise and supplication with the same hand he used to write the deadly marching orders for his neighbor’s husband, the beauty of God’s character still shone through. The thief on the cross, his destructive, evil-doing hands nailed to a plank of wood, allowed truth to change his eternal destiny on the spot. Search-and-destroy Saul allowed his hands to lose their grip on the sword of persecution and pick up a quill to write life-changing letters to the early Christian church under his new pen name Paul.
Which brings us back to Bill Cosby. For eight years, he (and his skillful team of writers) spoke truth on the Bill Cosby Show. He—along with the other actors—identified and glorified so much of what was good and noble and pure in this world. We laughed, we cried, we wondered and were inspired, not by a sin-filled man, but by the truth he demonstrated through the character he played week after week.
Knowing this, we have an opportunity to accomplish even more than this tragically tarnished celebrity. The truth we preach and teach and share can become the truth we are. We can read the script and then live it, enjoying the eternal rewards of allowing God’s message to transform us from the inside out. Our hands, soiled by sin, can be instrumental in saving one more soul. Ours.