I once worked on a church staff for a senior pastor who refused to cut out a cancer in his administrative staff. Seeing a storm brewing I left the church for a different pastorate (which was tragic in its own right). Unaddressed, the cancer cost this good pastor one third of his congregation at what should have been his zenith in ministry. A year after the damage was done, this old pastor mumbled to me, “I should have fired [that person] a long time ago.” Faint consolation to me or to the many hundreds of parishioners impacted by the fracas. The big guy had made it clear to me that he was running the ship and things were going to go down the way he dictated. Down they went, but hardly on his terms.
Today, my TV is drenched in coverage of the abominable situation at Penn State. I love JoePa. I’m no fan of Penn State football, but I truly admire and revere any coach who lasts 61 years anywhere and there is not one discouraging word to be said about him. Until now. The allegations are that JoePa was not forceful enough in dealing with a pederast on his staff. Joe Paterno is done at Penn State. I don’t know nuthin about what Joe did or didn’t do and certainly not why. I can’t help but wonder if JoePa wasn’t a lot like my former senior pastor – paralyzed with hope that some pleasant solution would work itself out. Folks, it NEVER DOES.
Some people (understandably) think God and His Son, Jesus, are tie-dyed peacenik Love Gurus; that everything they do is anchored solely in Love. That’s what John 3:16 is all about, right? Or how about this word from our Sponsor:
“…God is love…” (1 John 4:16)
I believe that 100%. I also believe these words from our Sponsor:
…“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts”… (Isaiah 6:3)
…“HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY…” (Revelation 4:8)
In His Love, God does not see our faults. In his holiness, God is bound by His character to punish our sins. This dichotomy is extremely difficult for mortals to understand. God has a great challenge of balancing His attributes of Love and Holiness. He cannot prefer one attribute over another. He cannot ignore our sins and, yet, He cannot fail to view us with compassion. People like to point to Jesus’ great love for us and are correct in doing so. But did He not also love those moneychangers whom He drove out of the Temple with a whip which He braided Himself? We miss out on the full, true character of God if we look the other way when we see something that makes us uncomfortable. (Here’s a video of a good sermon I delivered on God’s need to balance His attributes.)
I ache for the situation JoePa is in. I also ache for his situation the day that he first heard of the problem within his staff. Personally, I think he should have braided a whip and beat the sodomizer half to death… or farther. Joe has a track record of loving people longer than most of us have been alive. I can only guess that he hoped a) that the allegations were not true, or b) that the problem would quickly and quietly go away. I don’t know. What I do know is that he did not act swiftly and that cancer has cost him his professional life. I’ll ache for JoePa a year from now as he quietly mulls over what he could have and should have done differently.
I’m going back for one more word from our Sponsor. Jesus was walking about in Jerusalem when the Pharisees drug out a woman, probably kicking and screaming, who had been caught in the act of adultery. You know the story. Yes, Jesus declined to cast the first stone of judgment on the woman. But note, Jesus also stood as King of Heaven and Earth and said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) “SIN NO MORE.” Jesus didn’t wish the problem away or turn a blind eye. In essence He told her, “knock it off, I’m not going to put up with this.”
Jesus did not do loving things the right way.
Jesus did the right things in a loving way.
When a child asks you for a tenth, eleventh, and thirteenth cookie, you tell them “no”. Not because you don’t love them, but expressly because you do love them and know what is good for them. Many times saying “no” or saying “stop” is the most loving thing we can do. It is certainly the righteous thing.
Clark H Smith