Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Sinful tragedy    (3/10/2019 )

Sometimes one doesn't want to hear or read the news.  It sometimes seems too awful to take in - our minds can't cope with it.  At the moment it might be the catastrophic implications of global warming - what we are doing to the planet is making it increasingly putting it under threat for our grandchildren. But we are slow and reluctant to change our ways...

But there is another issue in the news which is also deeply disturbing and very hard to face. I am thinking of the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked parts of the church over recent years, and that go on being exposed.

My heart wants to cry out - "These things should not happen!" - which in a small way perhaps echoes the cry, or maybe the scream, of those who have been victims of abuse.

What is so hard to understand is how anyone who professes to be a follower of Jesus, and especially anyone called to leadership in the church, could ever cause such harm and distress to a child of God, and this purely for their own selfish satisfaction.  

Jesus' words which perhaps tell us his attitude on this are startlingly direct - “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matthew 18, verse 6). This is a massively serious sin.

On top of the lifelong damage it does to individuals and those around them, it undermines trust and puts question marks against the power of the gospel to change lives.  The church and its message of love, and all who seek to serve Christ, are damaged and challenged. Anyone who feels the force of that painful contradiction needs our sympathy.

In a real way it feels as though any attempt to understand such actions is almost a concession, as though with understanding it might be forgiven.  I am not sure that is a place we can readily go. Certainly the message of the gospel is one of forgiveness and new life, but that forgiveness is more in God's hands and in the hands of others, than in ours.  All I can suggest by way of response is to offer these thoughts:

  • The church, and for that matter the whole world, is made up of sinful people. It should not surprise us when the weaknesses of human nature cause suffering and tragedy, though it deeply saddens us.
  • Sin, whether 'great' or 'small', is damaging and wrong. My guilt and shame needs forgiving and dealing with as much as anyone else's.
  • We need to guard and care for vulnerable people and children at all costs.
  • We need the constant grace of God to heal the world and to change our hearts.

Perhaps it is best to say no more, except that for all our weakness and sinfulness, Christ is the Saviour, for whose help we pray.

 Lord, in a world of temptations and suffering, comfort and heal the abused, and deliver us all from evil.

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