Part Four: THE MARRIAGE WAR
I believe Joshua Harris and his wife were tactically targeted by Satan. They were conspiratorially taken out. The devil is guilty of first-degree marriage murder, and they are certainly not the first couple to be hit. From all that I observed in the early years of my acquaintance with Josh, I believe he and Shannon had something special and real in their marriage at one time. And it seems to me that Satan ruthlessly attacked and ultimately robbed this from them.
I know there has been some debate about whether Joshua Harris’s faith was ever real and whether or not he was truly living out a Christian marriage. But that is somewhat beside this particular point. Regardless of what was happening behind the scenes, Josh claimed to be standing with Jesus and building his marriage on Christian principles. And because of this, there was a target on his forehead.
Marriage is at the center of a great battle between light and darkness. And that is because it is a chief revelation of God’s Kingdom. It was designed by God as a picture of the relationship between God and Man. And Satan wants to destroy that picture. He wants to step on it, stamp it out, mock it, and gloat over it as it suffers harm and ruin.
As such, even a marriage between two unbelievers will experience challenge and will suffer difficulties. And that is because even a godless marriage threatens to give a shadowy picture of the Truth of God’s Kingdom.
As Leslie and I have experienced firsthand, a Christian marriage is in for something even more intense. Every marriage receives difficulties, but a Christian marriage — one that dares to wear the Name of Christ upon it — receives bonus challenges and bonus difficulties.
Leslie and I have personally discovered what happens when a Christian couple audaciously rises up and says, “Hey World! Watch what God will do as we bring Him into the center of our love story!”
What sort of bonus challenges and difficulties do you think that sort of couple would experience?
Well, I can tell you from personal experience that such a couple will face a barrage of fiery arrows that will attempt to melt the soul like butter.
It’s like the little hairy-footed Hobbit rising up before an army of ugly, angry orcs and shouting, “I defy you to stop me!” The orcs lick their lips and run with eagerness to devour the seemingly helpless little dude. The hairy-footed Hobbit is lunch.
From the very beginning of my marriage with Leslie, I have had people come up to me and say the words, “We pray for you and Leslie every day. We know the devil wants to take you out!”
How true those words are.
This isn’t just a battle for Truth. This is a battle for the integrity of marriage.
If any married couple on earth could sit down with Josh and his wife and say, “We know what you have faced,” it would be me and Leslie.
Inordinate challenges. Bizarre difficulties. Lip-licking orcs.
If you don’t have Truth as your belt and Faith as your shield, there is no way to outlast the swarm of merciless bullets that fly at your marriage and family day-in and day-out.
Hairy-footed Hobbits simply have no chance in this fight.
But, praise God, we are not hairy-footed Hobbits. We are Christians. And we have been given everything we need for life and godliness.
A Conversation with the Devil
In 1997, two years into this “ceaseless spray of spiritual bullets” I had a conversation with the devil. Don’t worry, it was a one-sided conversation. He was doing all the talking. But, at the time, I was not smart enough to know not to listen. He was offering me a deal.
“Let go of this message,” he cajoled, “And I’ll let go of you!”
At the time I was pleading with God to give me a way out of this message — the message of Christ-centered relationships and sexual purity. I wanted a reprieve from the fog of war, the constant conflagration. Leslie’s health was always under siege. Our finances were always facing ridiculous and strange attacks. And whereas we had always been likable sorts of people, it felt like there was an “I Hate Eric and Leslie Ludy Club” that was growing by the day.
This deal from the devil sounded like an answer to my prayer. It was a quick way out of the battle.
Leslie and I conferred together and agreed that we wanted the devil to let us go.
We scheduled a time to sit down with Leslie’s parents to make the announcement. I remember that conversation well.
We sat down in the living room and exchanged small talk for a few minutes. When the time seemed right in the conversation I got down to brass tacks. I finally got the statement out.
“Leslie and I are ending our ministry.”
Her parents looked at us in surprise.
I realized that I needed to explain myself a bit.
“The deal is, if I let go of this message, the devil will let go of us.”
The next words spoken have been some of the most important words in my entire life.
Leslie’s mother said these words, “Eric, he’s lying to you! He’s not going to let you go until he kills you. You know too much.”
That is what I needed to hear. I needed to remember that the devil is a liar. I needed to remember that this is a battle to the death. I needed to remember that the devil is wielding his resource in an attempt to thwart the forward progression of the Kingdom of Christ.
I stood up in that living room. My two hands both formed into fists. I gritted my teeth. And I declared, “I’m not stopping!”
When Leslie and I started speaking on purity, we understood the doctrine of suffering. We understood the suffering of Christ and the beauty and life that ushered forth out of His suffering at the Cross. But we didn’t fully understand how that same suffering worked in the Christian’s life. We didn’t fully understand how that same beauty and life usher forth out of the Christian’s suffering.
Without knowing any details, I believe I understand what led to the breakdown of Joshua Harris’s marriage. I get it. I know the pain, the difficulty of living in a glass house and having rocks hurled at you daily. I know the trials inherent to a public marriage that wears a bullseye on its forehead with whole sectors of society cheering to see it fail.
When I was twenty-eight, I was in the hospital with a stress disorder. I couldn’t breathe. I had a sharp pain in my heart and limited-to-no strength in my left arm. The doctor asked me, “Young man, what in the world are you doing?”
I was dying due to the strain.
As I write this, I’m now forty-eight. I carry weights a thousand times heavier than when I was twenty-eight, but without stress. The grace of God has so massively impacted my daily lifestyle. There is far more difficulty in my life now and the attacks against me are more fierce than ever before. But, thanks to God’s empowering grace, my life is full of buoyancy, laughter, joy, and life.
One of the key quotes in my life is, There are always two. If you have read any of my previous blogs in this series you understand the importance of that statement.
And, in the arena of suffering, there are two forms.
The first form of suffering is:
experiencing the painful loss to your personal comforts and life expectations while continually asking why and begrudging the loss all the while.
And when you suffer this way, your soul erodes within. Like the constant whittling of a stick, eventually there is nothing left. The man that suffers this way ends up with doubt, despair, and denouncement of everything true and godly.
That form of suffering leads to spiritual death. It’s pure misery.
But there is another form of suffering, a second form, that is surprisingly beautiful.
The second form of suffering involves:
receiving life’s difficulties as blessings and opportunities to grow stronger and to discover greater richness in life, and trusting God is in control . . . no matter what.
It’s the equivalent of taking smelly manure and, instead of complaining about it, thanking God for it, and then tilling that stinky stuff into the garden of your soul as if it were life’s most exquisite fertilizer.
When you suffer this second way, your soul explodes with life within. You end up cherishing God, trusting Him with an ever-increasing faith, and ultimately gaining the fulness of the Kingdom of our beloved Christ.
In Joshua Harris’s recent Apology Tour, he has propagated the idea that the purity movement sold its listeners a bill of goods — the notion that following God’s ways somehow leads to a life without challenges, marriages without struggles, and glittering futures without flaws.
But, what Josh isn’t saying is that there are always two. So, I will say it. (And you can quote me if you would like.)
There are always two!
- There is a form of supplying vision to someone that promises beauty without pain and fairy tale endings without fantastical challenges.
- And there is a form of supplying vision to someone that promises beauty through pain and fairy tale endings because fantastical challenges are leveraged and joyfully transformed.
Maybe Joshua Harris taught his hearers that riches were gained without investment, or muscles were built without exercise, or that happy endings were found without incredible trials, but I don’t remember such notions being commonplace in the purity movement throughout the last twenty-five years. And, ironically, though I didn’t travel with Josh, read his books, or sit and chat with him for hours about his beliefs, I would have guessed that he was a purveyor of suffering model number two. I assumed he was just as much opposed to Prosperity-Gospel-Christianity as I was.
But maybe I was wrong. Maybe Prosperity-Gospel-Christianity is what he was teaching and believing the entire while.
For my part, Suffering Model #2 was the message of the purity movement that I knew and loved.
So, what is the message of Suffering Model #2?
Suffering Model #2 says:
“If you are willing to walk the Narrow Way you will endure greater challenge in the now, but find the sustaining power of God throughout the difficulty and the fulness of God in the end.”
The purity movement, at least the one that Leslie and I stood with, taught that the joyful endurance of difficulty equals growth in grace. It taught that waiting upon the Lord increases strength. It taught that giving up one’s life leads to the discovery of God’s eternal life. It taught that picking up one’s cross leads to dying with Him, rising with Him, and sitting with Him in heavenly places. It taught that greater depths of intimacy and trust are found when you build a relationship upon faithfulness, respect, honor, and selflessness.
In other words, the real purity movement was simply bringing the good old-fashioned Gospel to bear upon a younger generation fixated on earthly romance and sexuality. It spoke to them in the center of their romantic preoccupations and called them to focus on something better, bigger, and more fulfilling — His Name is Jesus.
Some people name their cars. Some people give names to their houses. Leslie and I named our marriage. It’s called Barracks 28. In fact I have an entire book named Barracks 28 which explains the entire reason behind this odd name.
Barracks 28 was the name of a very real barracks in the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany during World War II. And in the midst of this horror-house, where nearly 132,000 people were ruthlessly exterminated, Barracks 28 was known as the crazy barracks that still hoped.
Though Leslie and I have often proclaimed the romance, fulfillment, and beauty of God’s ways, we have never preached an easy Gospel. We have never agreed with the “health, wealth, and prosperity” message. Since before our marriage to each other, we both understood that to follow Christ meant the likely death of a martyr. Though we have grown stronger over the years in the art of suffering, we have always understood it to be part and parcel of the historic version of Christianity throughout time and remembrance.
There are many times when Leslie and I feel like our lives have greater challenges than any other Christian couple in our generation today. We feel like we have lived out our twenty-five years of marriage on the front lines of a war zone. (Even after we retired from the forefront of the sexual purity issue, we moved into other forms of ministry which have made us even more of a target for enemy attack.) To say our journey has not been easy is putting it mildly. But, like Paul, we have learned the secret of being content in all circumstances. We have accepted that suffering goes with the territory we have chosen. And we have also learned that God’s grace is sufficient to walk through trials with triumph and joy.
Here’s what I tell my children:
Kids, you have one go at this thing called life. Grab it like a grapefruit and squeeze every bit of possibility out of it. Live it with gusto. And live it for Jesus Christ. Expect opposition, and laugh at it when it comes. Smile at the difficulties because they are the very things that are going to grow you up in the Life of Christ and draw you unto Him in greater and greater intimacy. There is nothing that can separate you from the Love of God in Christ Jesus, therefore, fear nothing. Rejoice always, because God turns EVERY SINGLE difficulty you will face into greater strength, greater love, greater power, and greater faith in Him. Happily ever after awaits every true child of God, NOT because life is easy for them, but because everything in life, even the most miserable of circumstances and the most formidable of challenges, is leveraged in their life to bring about an even greater happiness in Christ.
Joshua Harris has suffered great difficulties, but these difficulties beat down his faith instead of building him up in Christ. I can’t tell you why, but he has been suffering incorrectly. His self-designed hopes, dreams, ambitions, and expectations were not met by Christ and so he has kissed Jesus goodbye.
But, at any point along the way, Josh can hand all these challenges, these pains, these unmet expectations, and these hurts over to God and say, “Lord, make this the fertilizer for my soul. Don’t let the devil win. Turn all that Satan has meant for evil in my life into good. Lord, I want to suffer well by Your enabling grace.”
Like the father of the young prodigal son, God awaits Josh’s turning. He’s got His running shoes on.
Meanwhile, as Joshua Harris is spreading the seeds of confusion and discord in the Church, I’m asking God to take all that the enemy is intending for evil and turn it to good in each of our lives as believers. It is my prayer that my children would gain a firmer grasp on the value of truth, on the importance of faithfulness, on the significance of purity, and of the weight of God’s glory by watching Joshua Harris’s abandonment of it.
Josh Harris has kissed a lot of things goodbye as of late. May we not do the same to the heritage God has established in His Church over these past twenty-five years. He has entrusted us with a precious cargo of Truth that equips a man to live as a man ought to live and enables a woman to live as a woman ought. It’s power, it’s enabling grace, it’s real-working Christianity that leads to real-working relationships, real-working families, and real-working churches.
Eric Ludy is just one guy, one husband, one father, one voice in the vast cacophony of noise. But, if anyone is listening, I’m standing my ground, I’m staying my course, I’m loving my wife, I’m shepherding my kiddos, I’m sharing the Good News, and I’m ready to suffer for my King.
Though it has led to tremendous pain, I consider it a privilege to stand right here on this issue of sexual purity. Without purity in the hearts and minds of the Church of Jesus Christ we become nothing more than animals, and like the serpent, we live lives on our bellies instead of standing upright as the royalty of Heaven.
And I, for one, desire to give Jesus His due. He purchased for Himself a people that might bring glory to His Almighty Name. He is worthy of the highest praise, the loudest shouts, the most vigorous leaping, the most affectionate worship.
I am not willing to let the Church kiss true purity goodbye!
Other blogs in this series:
August 9 – Blog #1 – What’s a Father to Do? (A Christian father’s response to Joshua Harris’ recent renouncements of purity, his marriage, and his Christian faith)
August 12 – Blog #2 – There are Always Two (How to choose the real and lasting version of purity)
August 13 – Blog #3 –The Apology Tour (How to live unashamed of God’s Truth in our morally declining culture)
August 15 – Blog #4 – The Marriage War (What causes Christian marriages to fail?)
August 20 – Blog #5 – The Mud and the Stars (Does purity lead to beauty or heartache?)
Honorable Manhood Program:
8-week online program for men of all ages, March 1 – April 19.
Ellerslie Discipleship Training:
Be discipled by Eric, Leslie and their team in Colorado for 1 week, 5 weeks, or a season!
A BOOK TO READ:
Barracks 28 — by Eric Ludy
I wrote the book, Barracks 28, for Leslie as a celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary nearly five years ago. This has always been available only as a limited-edition release. If you are interested in getting a copy of this unique behind-the-scenes peek into our love story, we are making it available right now for a limited time. Click here to learn more.