On June 22, former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sexual abuse, using his nonprofit organization and status as a hometown hero and father figure to find and groom his young male victims.
But it’s not possible to be a Christian and hate him.
“Why do you look down on your brother? We will all stand before God’s judgment seat,” says Romans 14.10.
I’m from State College, PA, which is where most of the crimes were committed. Aside from a few loyal friends and family members, many of us think we’re better than Jerry Sandusky. We hate him for what he did to those boys and for ripping apart Happy Valley and Penn State football.
But God’s judgment seat is the great equalizer. None can escape it, regardless of our accolades or accomplishments. The judgment seat awaits the sinner and the saint. We’ll all stand before the seat (although I think we’ll fall not stand).
If there’s an advantage for any, it’s that Jesus did the unthinkable and died in our place. We deserved punishment, but received grace. And that grace opened up the Kingdom of God, delivered eternal life, welcomed us into the fellowship of the Father. God’s grace is undeserved and unmerited.
But we withhold grace from people whom we think don’t qualify, people who abuse children, people like Jerry Sandusky. We withhold the free gift to those who haven’t earned it. Ironic, isn’t it?
This brings us back to the judgment seat. Wonderful as grace is, judgment is stronger than grace. Judgment humbles us all. So we can’t offer grace to one but not the other. We can’t receive grace ourselves but refuse it to Jerry Sandusky. Grace doesn’t work that way.
My elementary school kept a spare set of clothes for emergencies. If you saw a kid wearing the brown corduroy pants and brown striped shirt, you knew something went wrong: he had soiled himself or thrown up or ripped his clothes.
Thus he was doomed to wear the full body dunce cap all day. We used to laugh at the schmuck who was forced to dress as a turd.
Until one day I peed my pants, and begged to call my mom, but the school nurse insisted I wear the spare pair instead. So I pulled on the spare, and stepped into the world. The kids laughed at me.
Suddenly I felt how every kid who had worn the brown body suit had felt, our embarrassment paraded in front of mockers. Stinging shot through my heart that I had put others through this cruelty. I never laughed at the spare again.
Jesus wondered why we look down on our brothers. The reason you look down on them today might be the same reason others look down on you tomorrow. Maybe not the exact same reason, but a reason nonetheless.
So while many might hate Jerry Sandusky, it cannot be the final response for the Christian.
The follow-up to this article is called, “Why Hating Jerry Sandusky Does No Good”.