If you see someone do something bad, do you report it? Or do you step in and ensure the evil behavior discontinues? The first is the letter of the law. The second is the right thing to do. And it might bring pain or difficulties out in the short term… but in the long term you’ll know you did the right thing.
I’m haunted this week by two news stories that are gaining national attention. The first is the news of Penn State’s former defensive coordinator who reportedly has raped or molested 8-12 boys over the last nearly 20 years. All the while he was running a non-profit foundation to reach and help at-risk youth. From this group he was luring and grooming and eventually molesting and raping his victims. It’s enough to sicken the most seasoned and caustic of people.
Then in Bellevue, a 2-year-old boy has gone missing while his mother reportedly ran out of gas taking him to the hospital. The police are now saying the car never ran out of gas and neighbors are saying they haven’t seen the boy in weeks. The whole story reeks of foul play and the thought of having a Casey Anthony like investigation or trial in the PNW is a possibility.
The new outlets roll. Stories flash. News is made. And all the while, the children grieve. The victims of the stinking events aren’t even part of the headlines. We want desperately to focus on the perpetrators and excommunicate the evil from among us. But these little lives have been victimized or in the case of the boy in Bellevue, perhaps worst has been done. My heart grieves and aches for the children who have crimes committed against them. It sickens me. And it in a small way teaches me of what our Father God must feel like every time His children are sinned against and hurt and victimized. It must break His heart.
This last Sunday I preached on the value of community and urged people to read the book of Acts as a story of connections. The gospel gained and spread as people lived out their faith together. Faith isn’t a vertical thing between us and God alone- faith is lived out horizontally. As a country we hungry to be alone and be rugged individualists- and yet we were created to be together in community. It is in our DNA. It is a natural fact that of all animals in the world, humans are the most susceptible and needy as infants. We want to be alone, and yet God created us to need others to even stay alive in the early years of our life.
Of our inter-connectedness, one scholar wrote, “One thing all human beings share in common is that they are born into families. Even where parents die shortly after the baby’s birth, the remaining natural relatives, a foster family or the fictive family of a state institution will surround the infant, or else the infant will not survive. Unlike many creatures, who need merely to procreate, we need to nurture our young or else they-and with them, our species- will die.” (David DeSilva) In short, we need others for survival. And when people prey on young people, they are breaking the most natural of our codes. They violate people in the most unnatural way. They violate those they have been created to protect.
The world is a rotten place at times. Capable of such heart breaking beauty and hope and joy and yet containing a dark underbelly of decay and demise that people victimize the most helpless and defenseless from among us. It’s enough to break our hearts. I have days when I’m so full of joy and beauty and I think that God must be in love with all the goodness I see. Then there are other days when my heart is sunken and sad and I am face to face with what “fallen nature” really means.
There were people who saw or heard of the coach’s actions and reported them and waited for the authorities to do something. But they never did something to stop the evil themselves. It is easy to cast stones but instead today I am haunted by the image in the mirror- am I always willing to take the hard and painful route of acting in justice for people who are being wronged?
Father be with the victims. Help restore and bring new life to their hurting hearts. And in WA may this little boy still be alive…somewhere. God help Him and be near to him. Jesus give us your life and your love to step in and be agents of change amidst the darkness. Give us the courage to speak up when we see people being victimized and risk our own fortunes or time or reputations to do the right thing and intervene when others are being hurt. Let us be like You, Father God, willing to sacrifice everything to live out our call from God.