Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn St. and Protecting Children Like Jesus

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matt 19:14).

Our Savior's love for children was built into the fabric of His creation. Just consider His sovereign options before the world began. Our Lord could have made every man and woman like our two fore-bearers (see Gen 2:7, 21-22), straight from dust to adult! But He decreed an entirely different process for Adam and Eve's subsequent offspring. God determined that His image-bearers would bring about His global purposes for eternal glory through conception, birth, growth, and natural dependence as children (Gen 1:28; cf. 3:15).

And "her seed," as we tend to emphasize this time of year, was born in Bethlehem to be our Savior. Do not overlook that the radiance of eternal glory - the exact representation of God's nature and the fullness of Deity - was once Himself a child. Jesus was born (Luke 2:7), circumcised (v. 21), developed in strength and wisdom (vv. 40, 51), and even astonished His parents (v. 48) - though He perfectly subjected Himself to them (v. 51)! So, in the earthly ministry of our Incarnate Creator as an adult, He loved and blessed children. Now, one of the more obvious take-aways for His disciples is: I love children and so should you.

It is possible that this take-away is what makes the recent events at Penn State all the more sickening - and latent with critical lessons for Christians and local churches.

From time to time - fortunately, more infrequently than not - I am contacted regarding my advice as to how to handle a suspected or newly-discovered case of child abuse. You see, the tension that many pastors, church officers, and Christians in general tend to feel is how should we who know the transforming power of Christ for the most heinous of sinners (with the violent, murderous life of our beloved Apostle, Paul, being case in point) address heinous sin when it (inevitably) lands across our desk? Should we minister the Gospel according to Scripture or notify the governing authorities? The answer, of course, is yes. In other words, you call the police and then you follow close behind with your Bible.

I was grateful to read the counsel of Al Mohler to churches and Christian organizations in the wake of the tragic Penn State debacle:
Sometimes Christians are reluctant to report suspected sexual abuse because they do not feel that they know enough about the situation. They are afraid of making a false accusation. This is the wrong instinct. We do not have the ability to conduct the kind of investigation that is needed, nor is this assigned to the church. This is the function of government as instituted by God (Romans 13). Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk. This is itself an immoral act that needs to be seen for what it is.

... After law enforcement authorities have been notified, the church must conduct its own work of pastoral ministry, care, and church discipline. This is the church’s responsibility and charge. But these essential Christian ministries and responsibilities are not substitutes for the proper function of law enforcement authorities and the legal system. As Christians, we respect those authorities because we are commanded to do so.
It is worth reading The Tragic Lessons of Penn State - A Call to Action, in its entirety.

Mohler's counsel is fundamentally sound and should be heeded by every Christian in these situations. Biblically-speaking, by invoking Romans 13:1-4 (or 1 Pet 2:13-14), we are not thereby denying Matthew 18:15 -20, much less 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 or 1 Timothy 1:15-16. We have not set aside our spiritual responsibilities in any situation by appropriately dealing with the legal or criminal ones.

As a pastor and minister of the Word, I am more than ready to take the Gospel of the grace of God to child molesters, abusive parents, and every other manifestation of unrighteousness that scars His world and bars His image-bearers from the Kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-10). I am willing to proclaim to any and every perverted wretch that he or she may be washed, sanctified, and completely "justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (v. 11).

And I am ready and willing to extend that Gospel to them behind bars.

Christians must not perceive contacting the proper authorities and addressing spiritual concerns as somehow inconsistent. It is "an immoral act" to leave children at risk while we dance in indecision. God must not be mocked, men must reap what they have sown (Gal 6:7). Self-evident sins must result in judgment (1 Tim 5:24). And it is not unbiblical nor sub-Christian nor un-Gospel-centered to insist upon this. Quite the contrary, in fact.

The Master who rebuked His disciples for hindering children is the same Savior who gave His life as a ransom for even the most vile of sinners (Matt 20:28). Even for child molesters. Christians, you can preach the Gospel and protect our children. Doing both is very much like Jesus.

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