Things we can Learn from Rob Ford

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The drama surrounding Rob Ford continues to make headlines as investigators dig up facts and new allegations come to light. Americans and Canadians are fascinated by what Maclean’s Magazine called “the greatest political train wreck of our time.”

I don’t want to add fuel to the already blazing inferno of craziness surrounding Ford’s words and actions, but I do want to take a minute to draw out some things we can learn from this situation. So here’s a list of points I’ve been keeping as I ask myself, “What lessons can I learn from Rob Ford?”

Our inner voice will eventually become our outside voice.

Ford has said some wildly inappropriate things over the past while and, unfortunately for him, much of it has been in front of microphones and TV cameras. I’m reminded of what Jesus said in Luke 6:45 that “…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

We all have an inside voice that we don’t want others hearing, and most of us are good at keeping it under control, but we still have a responsibility to rebuke that voice when it sins (2 Cor 10:5). If we allow that voice to continue to speak, feed it with more negativity (racist/sexist language, hate, jealousy, bitterness) it will eventually, in a moment of weakness, anger or just through the atrophy of our wills, become our outside voice.

Our secret life will catch up with us.

Wiser people than I have said that “character is who you are when no one is watching.” The façade we put up will only last for so long until the mask slips and we are caught. James 1:8 calls this being “double-minded” and teaches us that it makes us “unstable in all our ways.”

If you are secretly looking at pornography and think it’s not affecting anyone, you’re wrong. It will change how you see and interact with every female you meet. If you are stealing and think no one will find out, you’re wrong. Records are kept and you will be caught. If you are whispering against someone under your breath and believe only you can hear, you’re wrong. You are being heard, and your hatred is written all over you.

And God, the perfect Judge knows, so you’re not getting away with anything. As Ecclesiastes 12: 14 says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

Your private life will affect your professional life.

Rob Ford wants people to disconnect his professional life from his private life. He believes his weekend tomfoolery doesn’t affect his weekday work. But that’s just not true. Your ability to be faithful to your wife shows your faithfulness to everything else. How you use your own money tells us how you will use other’s money. The addictions that you indulge in on Saturday will spill over to Monday. Jesus’ Parable of the Talents reminds us that our faithfulness in small things is directly related to our faithfulness in greater things. (Matthew 25:14-30)

Public figures are held to a higher standard.

Like it or not, whether you are the greeter at Wal-Mart or the mayor of Toronto, public figures are held to a higher standard than people who work in the background. The Bible has many examples of people who were given more severe punishment because they were public figures, an example to others, who were supposed to be doing things right. (Leviticus 10, James 3:1)

It’s very important to have accountability in place to ensure that all that we are doing is as blameless as possible. As Christians we recognize that everyone around us is watching us to see the cracks in our spiritual armour. It’s not fair, but it’s true. (1 Peter 1:12) That’s why Jesus calls us the “light of the world.”  (Matthew 5:14-16)

“Everybody’s doin’ it” is not an excuse to sin.

On a few occasions Ford has tried to fall back on “everybody’s doin’ it” as the reason for his actions. At one point he even challenged the whole of the Toronto City Counsel to take drug tests to prove that he wasn’t alone in his nefarious lifestyle.

Two thoughts come to mind. First, if you are surrounded by sin and unrepentant sinners who are going to pull you into a miry pit of filth, maybe it’s time to go somewhere else (Proverbs 13:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33-34).

Second, no one is forced to sin. Proverbs 1:10 says, “If sinners entice you, do not consent.” God gives everyone the ability to say “no” and He expects them to use it! He even promises that if we are willing to trust Him that He will give us strength of will a way out from temptation when it comes (Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 10:13)

Addiction creates nightmares.

Rob Ford has admitted to having a problem with binge drinking and says that his use of alcohol is the reason behind many of his problems. Addiction to anything is going to cause you problems. Whether it’s caffeine, cigarettes, gambling, porn or alcohol, you never really have an addiction under control. By its nature your addiction is always controlling you.

This is why scripture implores us in 1 Peter 5:8 to “be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Your addiction makes you an easier target and will lead to your downfall.

You can have a “come-to-Jesus moment” without actually coming to Jesus.

I have to admit that I was astonished when I heard Ford say he had a “come to Jesus moment”, though I’m not sure what he meant when he said it. I hope that he meant that he believes he is a sinner, has asked God for forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus, has made Jesus his Lord, repented from his sins, and is seeking spiritual help – but it didn’t seem like that’s what he meant.

Christian repentance is NOT getting caught in sin, having an epiphany that you are a mess and then telling people you are going to change your life. Christian repentance means humbling ourselves before God, admitting that we have love our sins and ourselves more than our God, that we are fundamentally broken and cannot fix ourselves, that we no longer want to be in charge of our life and now submit our wills to Him, accepting His forgiveness through Christ, and from that point on working to make right what we have done wrong and walk in the path God has set for us.

There’s a fine line between being funny and being mean.

SNL, John Stewart, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien Will Farrell and many others are having a field day with Rob Ford’s shenanigans. Some of them are truly funny and others go too far. I’m not going to say where the line is drawn, but I do believe that we need to be careful when we talk about someone, especially when it is someone who is in pain.

Humans seem to be wired to laugh at suffering. Anyone who has watched Americas Funniest Home Videos knows that it’s funny when something unexpected (and often painful) happens to someone. Many times even the person who gets hurt laughs at themselves. That said, laughing with someone as they experience something painful, and laughing at someone, are two different things.

The news media reports only what they see, often way too soon, and always through a filter.

We all know this, but we still need to be reminded to take new news reports with a grain (make that a tablespoon) of salt. There is no such thing as “the whole story” or “fair and balanced” because not even the best news reporter is omniscient and unbiased. And the formatting 24-hour news cycle forces these stations to try to outdo one another so they can report the story first. To do this means they often jump to conclusions and sensationalize the story to make it more interesting to the viewers – and more viewers equals more advertising dollars.

As you listen to any story, whether on the news or related from a friend, remember that we never, ever really know the whole story. Don’t commit “assumicide”.

The worst times in our life will reveal who our friends are.

I was touched when I saw Jim Flaherty get visibly upset while talking about his friend Rob Ford’s troubles. It reminded me that it’s during our most troubled times that we find out who our real friends are.

Politicians are good at politics.

Just like we need be discerning when listen to news reports, so we also need to be careful when politicians talk. Some are honest and want the best for their constituents. Others will say anything if they think it will help them improve their status, get some votes, increase their power, or help them stay in office. The trick is figuring out who’s who.