Internationally renowned televangelist and megachurch Pastor Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, recently revealed that he once wanted to take his life but love kept him from taking the plunge.
"When I was being condemned from the four corners of the earth I had a moment where I wanted to kill myself and I was ready. What kept me was not a Scripture, what kept me was that every time I showed up here, you were here," he told his congregation to cheers, which quickly turned into a standing ovation, according to a recording from a sermon posted to YouTube on Sunday.
Long doesn't say in the clip why he wanted to take his life but it appears his dark hour may have stemmed from allegations in 2010 that he coerced several young men into sexual relations. Four lawsuits resulted from those allegations according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but they were all subsequently dismissed "with prejudice" in 2011.
As his congregation cheered and surrounded him prayerfully, Long began trembling and tears rolled down his face.
"I would not take my life for the one mere reason. My family loved me. My church loved me and regardless of what anybody says. Love lifted me and carried me and you didn't judge me," he said.
"There are folk here who understand this. You're alive because somebody loves you. They didn't give you a sermon. They didn't call you, they didn't question you before a council. When I look back over my life and I think about this Scripture 'for God so loved the world' it didn't say he so judged the world," Long continued.
He then praised his congregation for being true disciples for showing love to him when he needed it and prayed that the love they showed him would return unto them.
"And He said by this you would know that they are my disciples. That they have love for one another. There is no greater power than the power of love. And I honor you as a congregation and as a people. That what sustains you through any storm is the real committed love that run from heart to heart and breath to breath," he said.
"I thank you and I want to release that love that you showered on me and my family over this whole congregation. That whatever hard place you might find yourself in I release the liberating power of the almighty God. We've been called to love," he added.
He then charged Christians not to use social media to disparage each other.
"I challenge every saint…we have no right and justification to kill one another on social media. Especially when you don't know. And if we're really gonna be a saint…let's love one another, let's show the world that we are different and we are people of God," he said.
Long settled with his accusers – Anthony Flagg, Maurice Robinson, Jamal Parris and Spencer LeGrande – in May 2011, approximately eight months after they levelled charges that he had coerced them into having sexual relationships with him while they were teenage members of his congregation.
The lawsuits cited by CNN say Long engaged in intimate sexual acts with the young men, such as massages, masturbation and oral sex. They also alleged that he took the young men on trips including to Kenya while enticing them with gifts such as cars, clothes, jewelry and electronic items.
Long's attorneys deny the allegations and maintain that he was simply attempting to be a father figure to his accusers by providing them with financial assistance and encouragement.