November 17, 2011

We Are . . .

Penn State. Words of honor and glory, now associated with shame and disgrace.

The scandal that’s rocked the country has hit me and my family hard. My husband is a diehard Penn Stater and I, by marriage, have inherited this love. Our blue and white hearts are broken—for so many reasons. It feels like there’s been a death, and in a way there has. This heartache is shared by millions in the Penn State family. The vile acts by an evil man have shattered the lives of innocent children, and have turned a collective dream—of an idyllic place and idolized people—into a nightmare.

I wonder how a crime like this could happen at all. But especially, how could this happen at Happy Valley. I’ve jokingly referred to Penn State as “the holy land,” because it truly is a special and revered place. It was our Camelot.

As news unfolded and details never-imagined-possible came to light, an angry lynch mob swelled—fueled by 24/7 cable TV. Countless words have been written, commentated, editorialized, shouted and discussed. Everyone has an opinion about Joe Paterno and the Penn State leadership. Finger pointing has become a competitive sport. Blame is being tossed out like confetti at a concert.

The moral high ground is a mighty crowded place right now. "I would have done this..."

Justice will surely have its day. It must. But when I look at this from a different perspective, the thing that strikes me most about the mob of onlookers and finger pointers is their stunning lack of grace.   

To all those holding pitchforks and flaming torches, I ask, “Who are you?”…and, “How good do you really think you are?”

Scripture surely paints a dim view of our inflated sense of goodness:
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. … Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:11, 15-18)
Did you hear that? Not one of us is good.  


Do you know that there’s someone else who didn’t act as nobly as he should. In fact he acted like a coward. It was Peter.

At the last supper Jesus told Peter, “Truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter, confident of his character and goodness, declared with the utmost conviction, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Yet only hours later, as Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin, Peter cowered outside in fear. When confronted about knowing Jesus, Peter didn’t defend Him, he denied him—three times—just as Jesus said he would. The next day Jesus was crucified.

If this scene played out today on CNN and Fox News, Peter would have been in the crosshairs of a furious mob. “What kind of person would do something like that!” Commentators would pick apart his character and lack of it. He’d be personally blamed for Jesus’ death. And under insane media pressure the disciples would fire Peter from their group and his name would be forever stained. Because the court of public opinion had rendered its decision: “Guilty!”

Thankfully and remarkably Jesus doesn’t operate as we do. Where we condemn, He forgives, loves and restores. He knows full well the mess we are. He knows we fall far short of the mark, no matter how hard we try. And He knows that no matter how good we think we are, we are ALL sinners in need of a savior.

That’s why He came. That’s why He died.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)
In her Beloved Disciple Bible study Beth Moore says, “When someone falls they are not necessarily a fraud—often they are just foolish. Wise is the man or woman who realizes he or she, too, could momentarily deny Christ. May we never withhold from another something that—in due time—we may desperately need.” (p. 50)

Jesus didn’t cast Peter out as we would have, He did something far more shocking. He gave him grace.

And He does the same thing for each of us. Amazing grace that saved a wretch like me...

In this time of justified outrage, betrayal and hurt can we do the same? If we say we follow Jesus, do we really have a choice?

We are...


Terri Tiffany said...

You hit home with this one. Wonderful post!
And we are Penn State fans as well--how easy it is to think we are better than anyone else.

Sassy Granny ... said...

I am so glad to see this hidden thing revealed, and the possibility that both justice & healing can now take place. But all the rancor & mob stuff just breaks my heart.

Given that we are created in God's image, I simply cannot feature Him applauding the lynch mobs.

Anonymous said...

Paterno has more in common with Judas than he has in common with St. Peter. That said, while Christ commands us to forgive the sinner -- as Christians we can do no less, after all -- Christ never suggested for a minute that we should not hold that very same sinner accountable for his crimes. Indeed, we need look no further than to Calvary for an example to follow. Christ forgave the Good Thief (St. Dismas) that hung on the cross to His right. Christ did not, however, stop Dismas' execution.

Saint Dismas