By Jim Denison
In October, Joe Paterno was the most revered coach in college football. In November, he is unemployed.
In October, Herman Cain was the Republican frontrunner. In November, he is fighting for his political life.
Paterno was head coach of the Nittany Lions for 46 years, winning two national titles. He was renowned for honesty and integrity. Now he has been linked to a horrible scandal involving his former defensive coordinator. This is a terrible way for Paterno’s coaching career to end and a horrific stain on his legacy. But the greatest tragedy is that on his watch, eight boys were allegedly abused over a 15-year period. They are innocent victims who will live with the scars of their abuse for the rest of their lives.
Some believe the trustees who fired Paterno did not do enough. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said he was “personally disappointed in the lack of action” by Penn State officials. And the U.S. Education Department said it would open an investigation into whether Penn State complied with federal law requiring disclosure of criminal offenses on campus. Others believe they went too far. Many blame the media for the firestorm and claim that the coach met his moral and legal obligations.
Meanwhile, Herman Cain continues to face allegations of sexual misconduct. Sharon Bialek is the latest of four women to claim that Cain harassed them when he was president of the National Restaurant Association. Cain described Bialek’s charges as “totally fabricated.” His campaign blames the allegations on a media witch hunt and other Republican candidates.
What does Scripture say about these scandals?
First, God’s word tells us what to do when we have been wronged: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you” (Matthew 18:15). It would have been best for the alleged abuse victims at Penn State and the NRA to go directly to those who wronged them. If they were refused resolution, they should then have informed others and finally made the matter public if necessary (vs. 16-17).
Second, Scripture teaches us what to do when we are in the wrong: “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). We should seek restoration immediately. The sooner we deal with cancer, the better.
Solomon observed that “the man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9). Daniel’s enemies “could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” (Daniel 6:4). Can your critics say the same of you?
The scandals prove that there is no such thing as private sin. Jesus warned us: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Matthew 10:26). Moses told the Israelites, “You may be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Our legacy is forged by what we do in private, not just in public.
How does God feel about these tragedies? First, he grieves with their victims. When we misuse our freedom to harm his children, their Father feels their pain and shares their suffering. He is with us in the floods and fires of life (Isaiah 43:1-3) and weeps as we weep (John 11:35).
Second, he seeks justice for all. He defends those who cannot defend themselves (Isaiah 1:17) and will make right all that is wrong (Hebrews 10:30).
Third, he works to redeem our suffering for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28). He loves those who have been accused and those who accused them. He is ready to heal all who trust their pain to his grace.
Where is this tragedy personal for you? Whether you empathize more with those who allege that they have been abused or with those who have been accused of wrongdoing, you know the pain of innocent suffering. Now Scripture invites you to “cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). Where will you begin today?