By: Tom Westerholm
If you have a Twitter account, a television with channels, a working radio, or access to any news network short of smoke signals, you have probably heard that former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been convicted of 45 out of 48 counts of sexual abuse toward young boys. The testimony levied against him was both gut-wrenching and cringe-worthy. The victims sobbed as they took the stand and described graphic things that I don’t really feel like repeating because honestly, reading them was bad enough.
I’m not legal analyst and I have no inside sources on the story, but I keep coming back to one main thought: this is where being a Christian sucks.
Here’s why: we are supposed to be like Jesus, and Jesus (somehow) loves Jerry Sandusky.
We shouldn’t feel vindicated, despite the temptation. And oooooh, is it tempting. Prison is notoriously hard on child abusers. Sandusky will spend the rest of his life locked up after one of the most highly publicized child sex-abuse scandals in history. If he is placed in the general population (not a sure thing, but certainly a possibility), things will not (how do I put this nicely?) go smoothly for him. It’s tempting to say “YES! You raping monster, you deserve what you get. I hope what happened to those boys happens to you, I hope you die in misery, and I hope you burn in hell afterward.” At least, those were my first thoughts.
Except…that’s not what Jesus would have said. Which gets back to my original point: being a Christian in this situation is incredibly hard because we are called to be like Jesus.
Sandusky did horrible, horrible, unspeakable things to innocent boys who will never have their innocence back. By all rights, he deserves what he is about to get. Indeed, many of my atheist friends will probably read this, look at me like I’m crazy, and tell me that this is why they could never get behind Christianity, and that they are going to continue hating Sandusky and hoping he gets raped repeatedly in prison. It’s hard to blame them. I can’t say with any real honesty that I didn’t think the same thing, initially.
And yet, as hard as this is, we are called to love Sandusky. Honestly, writing those words made me feel dirty, as well it should. Sin should always make us feel dirty, and the sins Sandusky committed were unspeakable. But they weren’t unforgivable. And even if they were, the unforgivability isn’t up to us.
I wish it was.