My initial reaction to the news of a sex scandal at Penn State involving the abusing of children was avoidance. Literally I didn’t read any of the articles that came out on Sunday and Monday. I feared they would say exactly what they said – that there was sexual abuse of children AND that the people who knew about it did nothing.
The reason I didn’t want to read it is simple. I have had incredible admiration for Joe Paterno. For years I have rooted for Penn State (not like for the Vols) because of him. He was so consistent, ran such a clean program, and with so much class. I knew this scandal would taint him. I didn’t realize how much.
My second reaction was sadness for the victims combined with anger and disappointment towards the Penn State leadership – especially Joe Paterno’s. How in the world could he not go to the police. What was he and the other administrators thinking?! How in the world could a known pedophile be allowed such access to the school in the aftermath? The passivity of it all just shocked me. I’ve been angry, especially since this hits close to home. I’ve seen first hand in many lives the painful affects of sexual abuse.
Now I have another emotion: Fear. Can you imagine making 1,000 good decisions that turn you into a successful person, then 1 terrible decision that derailed it all? Can you imagine building a reputation that is revered by all for 61 years, then in 1 week have it all destroyed? Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I was saying how could you Joe?!!!!!! Today I am asking, Could I? Could I spend years building a reputation as a family man, a pastor who is supposed to love Jesus, who lives honorably, makes moral decisions, has integrity AND then see it all collapse and burn in a fire of regret? Could I be that person?
Yes I could. So could you.
I was reading Hebrews 12 this morning. What incredibly poignant and timely words these are:
Hebrews 12:1, 2 1Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.
I’ve had to put my stones back in my pockets this morning, lest I do exactly as Joe Paterno and the other leaders at Penn State did. My prayer today has been, “Lord, rid of me the sin, the blind spot, the weight that will tear me down. Give me strength to keep my eyes fixed on You.” I hope you’ll make it yours too. Want to finish well? We better keep our eyes on Jesus.