The news out of Harrisburg, PA yesterday was heartbreaking. A grand jury investigated sexually predatory behavior in the Catholic church going back 70 years. The published report listed 301 priests who preyed on children leaving thousands of people confused, afraid, feeling alone in their shame. One man, in his 50’s who had been the victim of a priest, heard the name of that man on the list of predators and slowly shook his head, his story now confirmed after so many years. He said, “I’m free, I’m free.” Compounding the ugly was the awful revelation that church authorities did little or nothing to stop the evil, usually just moving a priest who was exposed to a new town. It is hard to even imagine the reasoning that justified those decisions.
I want to distance myself from that. I want to insist that I am different, don’t you? Let’s be reminded that as horrific as this story is, we are all capable of doing things we hope never see the light of day.
The history of humanity is full of chapter upon chapter of stories that confirm the preacher’s inspired words declaring that “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, NLT)
Perhaps you are getting angry, insisting that you are not like those awful men who preyed on children while representing Jesus. I surely hope that we are not doing those things, and yet we do fail. Sin is so common, so lacking in originality, that is accepted as ‘normal.’ That being true, let’s look into our own lives, away from the dark and sordid account of that grand jury report.
Ever been so angry you hated someone if only for a day or two?
Jesus says that kind of anger is kin to murder.
Remember His famous words about adultery?
If we spend time indulging fantasy, we have taken steps towards the reality.
Which of us has not just wanted to have his own way, disregarding the need of another?
That selfishness does not reflect the goodness of God, does it?
As much as some resist the fact, the truth is that we are universally resistant to the will and way of God. We all need a Savior! Against the backdrop of our failures, there is this bright light of hope, redemption, and transformation!
Paul, a man who had been full of self-righteous rage, who hated Christ and Christians, knew grace first-hand. The Spirit found him, invited him to give himself to the Lord Jesus, and changed him who had been “chief of sinners.”
He says, “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. . . . By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms . . . God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:1-10, NLT)
My prayer is for a new heart. I want to care deeply for those victimized by sinful people. I want to shine brightly with Christ’s love in a world of darkness. By the Spirit, I desire to be an agent of redemption and transformation – starting in me!
Yes, my prayer is this, our word from the Word. What a promise from the heart of our Father. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:25-27, NIV)
Father, make us whole and then make us healers.
Let your Light shine on us and then through us.
May we love the Truth and then be willing to speak it.
Help us, Holy Spirit, to listen, learn, and love.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen