Friday, November 11, 2011

A Christian response to the Penn State scandal

I'll admit, first of all, that I am taking all of this personally. I am not in any way affiliated with Penn State, either through the university or as a fan of the football program. But, I am primarily a father of two children from the ages of 8-11. I have been a youth pastor of Middle School and High School kids. I have dealt with countless kids in my pastoral ministry. And I have been a kids' soccer coach for the past 5 years. Most of all, I am a Christian, so I love the glory of God and hate sin. So, I take all of this a little personally.

And you may not care what I think, but I figured I should weigh in on this Penn State situation. So, let me elucidate a few of my thoughts:

1) Jerry Sandusky is a despicable man. He preyed on little boys who couldn't defend themselves and took advantage of their predicament in life. He is disgusting and there is absolutely no excuse for what he did. He is a sinner and deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law.

2) Mike McQueary should have done more. How you can walk in on those events and turn around and walk out is beyond me. The proper response is not to go to your office and call your daddy. The proper response is to stop what is happening and call the police.

3) John McQueary gave his son the wrong advice. When told of the events unfolding as they spoke on the phone, Mike's father told him to leave the building. He should have told him to go back into the shower room and beat the crap out of Jerry Sandusky and rescue that boy. By no means should he have told him to leave the building and wait until the next day to call his supervisor.

4) Joe Paterno didn't do enough. Joe Peterno, apparently, obeyed the letter of the law by reporting the alleged incident to his supervisors. But in a LOT of areas he failed. He waited an entire day (from Saturday morning until Sunday morning) to report this event. He may not have given the full description that McQueary gave to him. At the very least, he allowed Sandusky to continue to use his facilities and have access to his own football players and program for the next 9 years after this incident was reported to him. This is odd, given the nature of the accusation. At best, it is negligence. At worst, it is enabling and cover-up.

5) The rest of the university administration that knew about this incident are guilty of allowing the further abuse of boys on their facilities and by someone they knew was doing it due to their negligence.

6) We as Christians must primarily consider how these events profane the name of God. Sin is an affront to a holy God. The sexual abuse of children by those in authority over them defiles not only those children, but also the glory of God. Sin is disgusting. This is a prime example of the depravity of mankind. It is sick. It is sad. And God hates it.

7) We must also consider the victims of this alleged abuse. Our concern should not be for a sports program or a college, but for those who are most hurt by these incidents. I am sure that Joe Paterno will suffer because of his inaction. And I don't care. The victims here are the children who were abused during his watch. We must pray for them and we must pray for their families.

8) We, as Christians, should be concerned about the spread of the Gospel through this situation. The reality is that the only answer to the sin here is the Gospel. The cross is the only solution. As we are praying for the emotional healing of the victims, we must pray for the success of the Gospel and look for opportunities to bring it up as the only solution. Remember, apart from Christ, we are all Jerry Sandusky.

9) We must, in our churches, seek to protect our children from such predators. Make no mistakes. The enemy (Satan) ever looks to corrupt people within out churches. And he will stop at nothing to make the Kingdom of God look like a joke. Sexual predators have done this often because we have, in the church, been negligent in our jobs of protecting the ones who are most susceptible to abuse.

10) Above all, our response as Christians is not about us, nor about these boys, nor about Joe Pa, nor about Penn State. Our response is about God. We must never forget that.

As we grieve for these boys, experience anger towards Jerry Sandusky, wonder about Joe Paterno, reminisce about the supposed greatness of Penn State football, consider the remaining football players, and discuss the events of the last 9 years, let us never forget that our primary consideration as Christians is not in the human realm. It is in the spiritual. The focus of our thoughts and our discussions should be the glory of God. We must hate sin as God hates it. We must care for the lost as God cares for them. We must love the glory of God as God loves it. And we must live accordingly.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Why Theology Matters

In Hebrews 10, the writer begins to give a lot of commands to his readers as to how they are supposed to live their Christian lives. If we were writing this letter in today's church, we probably would have started right in with the commands of verse 22. We would tell our audience (congregation) that they need to draw near to God and hold on tight to Him, while trying to help others grow in their faith as well. This would be exactly what people would want to hear. They want practical applications for their daily life.

But verse 22 (which begins a section of practical application) is not in chapter 1. It is in chapter 10. Chapters 1 through the first have of 10 deal with theology. They cover subjects like the supremacy of Christ over angels, the supremacy of Christ over the Law, the progressive differences between the Old and New Covenants, the built-in frailties of the Old Covenant sacrifices, how the shadows of Old Covenant worship pointed to the reality of Christ and His once-for-all sacrifice.

The author thought it important enough to have 9 1/2 chapters of theology before getting into any kind of application. Paul did the same thing in Romans. He spends 11 chapters on theology before getting into practical application in chapter 12. So, the biblical writers seem to think that theology is as important as practice, if not more so. Why?

Simply put, right practice comes from right belief. Your actions flow from your beliefs. You cannot live correctly if your theology is wrong. In Hebrews 10, the writer shows this with one very important word. That word is found in the beginning of verse 19. After dealing with how God made promises under the Old Covenant and fulfilled them through the sacrifice of Christ as He brought in the New Covenant, the writer then says, "Therefore..."

I say this is an important word because it tells us how the following information is going to function. What follows are specific commands that detail how we are to live both individually and corporately. But, the word "Therefore" shows us that these commands don't stand on their own. They are a conclusion from previous material. You don't draw near, hold fast, and consider one another for just any reason. THEREFORE, you do these things. In other words, you do these things because of what God has already done for you. You base your actions on trusting in what God has already done and what He is doing. You live your life by faith in what the writer has just detailed in 9 1/2 chapters.

It's very similar to the Great Commission. We all know that we are to make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching. But, what is often missed in the Great Commission is the word "therefore". We are not to go, baptize and teach in our own power and for our own purposes. If we look back to see what the "therefore" is there for, we see that we are to go, baptize and teach because "All power in heaven and earth has been given to [Jesus]." In other words, our practice is based on our theology.

You cannot know how to live or what to do if you do not know what to believe. The Bible is full of theology because who God is and what God does is much more important than who you are or what you do. Spend a little time learning some theology. Once you know God well enough, then you might be able to figure out how you should live.