Friday morning brings heat and humidity to Nashville. And it no-doubt brings heat in the form of anticipation to Centre County PA, where the jury is now sequestered, deciding the fate of Jerry Sandusky.
From the time this thing unraveled in November, I have not posted about him at all. My posts were always about JoePa and defending the mindless attacks that were levied at him, as PSU obviously manipulated the venom toward a coach who they were now finished with, and were going to throw under the bus in an effort to buy some time to order their houses and hide the emails that prove their guilt.
I could rant about what was done to JoePa but it is pointless. As I predicted to my friends...Proverbs tells us "A Good name is to be valued more than treasure" and Joe's good name...and that of his wife and family...survived and remains. In fact, real truth seekers probably never doubted. To me it was always settled...you don't live your entire life with that kind of integrity and do the things people tried to blame on Joe.
But what of Sandusky? I've not written anything about him, and with good cause. He's a monster. His sort of sickness is the deepest most depraved that exists. The dad in me wants to drive to State College and run him down with my SUV. The anger in me wants to get a job in whatever prison he ends up in, so I can wring my hands and laugh as the prisoners extract their own form of justice. The outraged Christian in me wants to petition God for a pay-per-view of Hell when he finally arrives.
But the Christ in me has a broken heart. Why...?
A couple of reasons really...first of all, I believe I broke Christ's heart yesterday when I posted on FB-- after revelations that Sandusky even molested his own adopted son--that "there isn't a spot in Hell hot enough for him". If I truly believe in Hell, and truly believe in the price Jesus paid for all sinners, (not just sinners like me who do a lot of really bad things but nothing "that bad"...but sinners like Jerry Sandusky too), I would understand that I have no right to hate this man. I hate what he did. I hate the pain he caused those boys and their families and his family. I want him punished and he should be...thoroughly. But to demand his soul be somehow excluded from grace...I think that breaks Jesus' heart.
Before my closest friends start to worry that I have either become some sort of whiny liberal, or that I read Rob Bells book and sold out to his heresy...I assure you neither is true. What Jerry Sandusky did was horrifying and he should never see the outside of a prison again. In fact if there was a death penalty for his crimes I would not be against it being administered here.
But I am a Christian. And Jerry Sandusky has a soul. And that causes a problem for me.
The problem is that Jesus died for people like Jerry Sandusky. When the whip fell across His back and tore the flesh off until you could see his bones, that was for Sandusky too. When the crown of thorns was jammed into his skull until the blood flowed, that was for Sandusky too. When he said "It is finished" while hanging on the cross like a side of beef left to dry in the sun, he was announcing to his Father...and to Satan...that the work of redemption was now complete. And that plan included Jerry Sandusky, if he would receive it through Jesus' atonement.
As a man, it is practically insulting to me that Jesus would have offered this monster redemption. In my own mind I have repeatedly drawn lines where I imagined God's grace won't cross. The point of no return. Child molestation certainly fell on the wrong side of that line. The problem is there is only one actual line...it's the point where a person says "No" to the grace of God and refuses the redemption He offers through faith in Jesus. That...and only that...is how a man ends up in eternal Hell.
Jesus didn't die for a list of sins...He died for sin in general and sinners specifically. All of us.
I remember the first time I had this sort of rending of heart. It was in the days after the Columbine shootings and the picture began to emerge of the emotional state of the shooters. Two boys who were outcasts, angry, and who were essentially ignored by their own parents who were too busy chasing a nice lifestyle to notice that their sons were moving further and further from reality. Did they love their kids? Of course? But they ignored their pain. The tragedy is there was someone who did not ignore it. Someone who seized upon it and began to systematically enlarge it until it became madness that ended in murder. When it was done, those two boys were as dead as the victims they left in their wake. The person was Satan and when Columbine ended, and his two ministers of death lay in pools of their own blood, he was already somewhere else looking for another broken human being through which he could perform more evil.
Since this Sandusky thing began, deep inside of me there was this image I tried to block out. At first I thought it was just the part of me that wants to believe the best in people. But then I read a little snippet of a police report from Victim number 1. When Sandusky met with the boy's mother and he told her he had done wrong, that "I know you'll never forgive me...I wish I were dead". Something in that statement bit at me. Because I believe that no man grows up wanting to bugger little boys in the shower. No man wants to be a monster like this. Jerry Sandusky probably lives with more self-hatred and buried shame than anyone you know. He was a legendary football player and then a legendary coach at a legendary school under the most legendary Head Coach outside of Bear Bryant. He was the guy you'd probably think most likely to kill someone with his bear hands if he ever caught them doing the very crimes he was committing. And yet he couldn't control these sick urges and he became what he no-doubt detested.
Something in me remembered that under his horrible, monstrous, deviant acts, there is still a human soul, and Jesus valued that soul enough to die for it too. Just like mine.
Somehow I imagined Satan...invisible in those shower stalls or in Sandusky's basement as the horrors unfolded year after year. I imagined him laughing a sinister laugh, drooling at the pain he was engineering for both the boys and their attacker. Then when Sandusky was caught...he just moved along to find another person with even deeper wounds who he can use for even more nefarious purposes. His work with Jerry Sandusky and those boys is done...and like a plague of locusts, he simply moves on to find a new crop to ruin, leaving Sandusky to face the penalties and those boys to try to live on beyond those years of darkness.
Am I excusing this monster in any way? Absolutely not, and I hope no one misinterprets this in that way. But I was guilty of losing my focus on who was really working behind the scenes. And I was guilty of forgetting the reality of what I claim to believe. And I was guilty of turning my head at the truth that Jesus loved this man too. I can't do that if I really believe what I say I believe and if what I believe is really true.
We evangelicals are famous for saying that we "Hate the sin but we love the sinner". This time it's difficult.
But it's not optional.