COMMENTARY | John Gibson was fun and funny. He was smart and caring. He was a good teacher and a fine preacher. He was also troubled. He wrestled with depression for many years, and recently we learned he struggled with pornography.
That came to light because John confessed it in his suicide note.
I said “no way” when LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer predicted 400 pastors might resign on the Sunday after 32 million names were revealed in the hacking of adulterous hook-up site Ashley Madison. Again I said “no way” when others predicted a wave of suicides among those outed in August.
In the end, Patheos blog reports, three Christian leaders resigned and one died.
I knew the man who died.
John Gibson was a few years ahead of me at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. If memory serves, he was working on a doctorate and served as grader for my evangelism professor. He left to pastor a church, and some years later returned to New Orleans to serve on staff and eventually to teach. Some people knew of his struggle with depression. There aren’t many secrets on a seminary campus.
But apparently his wrestling with sexual addiction was not widely known. Gibson’s wife, Christi, said her husband knew he would lose his job when his name appeared on the hacked list, and he couldn’t face the humiliation.
Christi found his body in their seminary campus home on August 24. Then she had to tell their two children.
“There is brokenness in every single one of us. We all have things that we struggle with,” she told CNN last week. “It wasn’t so bad that we wouldn’t have forgiven it, and so many people have said that to us, but for John, it carried…such shame.”
Gibson’s family shared some of his story in a service at the seminary chapel. “My dad was a great man,” son Trey, 24, said. “He was a great man with struggles. My dad reached a point of such hopelessness and despair that he took his own life.”
“I still believe it could have been fixed,” Gibson’s wife said to cable news viewers. “It could have been healed.”
As a newsman, not much surprises me anymore. As a pastor, not much disappoints me, except the lack of grace when people need it most. To the sad truth that pastors are sinners, we offer this good news: Jesus died to save sinners.