As everybody knows, Jerry Sandusky has been convicted on 45 counts relating to predatory sexual crimes against boys.
We know that he was connected to Penn State University. We know that he was connected with the charitable organization, Second Mile.
Did you know that he was and is a member of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in State College, Pennsylvania?
I cannot imagine the pain and grief being experienced by that congregation. Part of that body has been a cancerous element. What if Sandusky was a member of your church? How should the church respond?
This was the question raised by Sandusky’s pastor this Sunday as he began his sermon.
In light of the misery, sorrow and suffering we see, affecting every aspect of our life, within us, in the midst of us, and around us – what are we to do? The world needs an answer, our community deserves an answer, and we need to answer together what is the most efficacious way to move forward from here. – Senior Pastor Ed Zeiders (CNN)
I am not writing this to critique the response of this church. Much that they are doing is biblical and commendable. Theirs is an unenviable position.
The question here is how would your church respond if facing similar circumstances? How should the church respond?
First, this type of thing should drive a church to its knees.
Heartfelt prayers of confession should accompany pleas for God’s mercy. Intercession should be made for the victims of one of the members and those harmed by the collateral fallout. Prayers should even be offered for the offender.
These prayers should focus on bringing honor to God’s name and seek a balance between wanting God’s judgment and his mercy.
But is that enough?
No, the Bible teaches that a church in this situation should exercise discipline upon the sinning member.
Here are some reasons why.
1. It honors Christ by disassociating this kind of behavior from the name of Christ.
2. It protects and warns the church.
3. It either drives the offending member to repentance or hands him over for judgment.
It does not allow for an obviously sinful and criminal man to stiffen his neck and refuse to demonstrate repentance while remaining a member of the body of Christ.
Just as civil society cannot really demonstrate justice to the victims without exercising judgment on the criminal, the church cannot demonstrate Christian love without exercising discipline upon the offending member.