Tuesday, 13 July 2010

extending grace to pedophiles?

July 10, 2010

Warning: you, gentle reader, may find this offensive. But please bear with me and read - and consider - before you respond. And understand that I have struggled with these questions myself, before asking for your input. Thanks!

The police in our community have been posting information in the newspaper and posting flyers on light poles, notifing people about the arrival of a "pedophile, high risk to re-offend" in our town. The man is question is young, still in his teens, and is in residence at the psychiatric ward at the local hospital, with permission to go out in the community during the day. He has a long list of conditions, including no contact with young people under 16 years old, and not being allowed at parks, pools, schools and other places children gather.

Many people are talking about it, and there is a lot of anger being expressed. Comments include things similar to: "Give him cement boots, you have a big lake!" .... "this creep is costing us all a lot of money, " ... "he is a human with no brain" ..." they do not change!!!" .... "it's a criminal act against all us good people!".... and so on.

I have talked with a couple folks who have actually met this young man, and while they are very concerned that he is allowed out into the community unattended (as I am also), yet having met him, they have wondered what might have led him at such a young age to get into this situation, and how best his situation should be handled.

I too, have wondered the same thing. I have also wondered about the angry and sometimes very cruel responses of people - some of whom are Christians.

I've been reading Philip Yancey's book What's So Amazing About Grace?, and in it he tackles the question of how we, as believers, and as the church, approach these situations.

It leaves me asking, "What's the grace approach in a situation like this? Surely, we can pray for him. Should we not also be careful about what we say about him? I find myself wondering what brought him into this situation? Was he perhaps a victim of abuse himself? Does that make any difference to how we treat him? Or should we even have to have a reason to react with grace? What about his family, those who love him? How do our reactions affect them?

What about the fact that we believe that Jesus loves this person as much as He loves you or me or anyone else? That we say we believe that every one of us, even the "good people," are sinners, and equally sinful in God's eyes? Do we really believe that? And are we really good people ourselves, after all?

What about the "amazing grace" that God has extended to us? And are we as believers not also called to pass on God's grace in our actions and words (and attitudes!)? Even to the "greatest sinners" (remember, the Apostle Paul himself was one of those...) (And so am I...) (Who else?...)

How do we extend God's grace in a situation like this? While people need to be aware of the situation, to protect their own children and the children in the community, does it help when people go beyond passing on the warning, to making hysterical comments?

No doubt there are better ways to deal with this young man's situation that just letting him loose in the community during the day. Society provides attendants to go out in the community with people who have all kinds of disabilities. They also provide facilities and activity locations where they can hang out safely - their own safety as well as the safety of others. What should society do in this case?

And if society won't step in and help, maybe this is an amazing opportunity for the Christian community to spend time with him and be Jesus to him. I think it would need to be mature Christian men, especially. Godly men? I wonder, are there not godly men out there who would not be afraid or repulsed to walk with Jesus in this way?

In our society we do need to somehow regain the sense of community where adults are watching out for each other's kids, and neighbors know each other and help each other. It's difficult when families are spread all over, and people move so often, and there's so much fear out there. But then that just gives the church (God's family) a wonderful chance to set the example. To be a community within the community that others can see in action (which means getting out of our cozy buildings and into the streets - and psych wards, too). To actively and purposefully interact in the community. Even when the community is frightening and dangerous.

So what more can we as believers do? Just leave it up to Father? What if Father calls us to be like Jesus? What would Jesus have done if he encountered this young man?

What if some Christians took the young man out for coffee or a meal, maybe spent some time with him, building a relationship, showing Jesus' love and grace - maybe simple things like watching a movie together or going to the gym or playing pool? If he was with mature Christians, maybe he would experience the love of Jesus in practice. Maybe not only the children would be safer because the young man is accompanied by mature Christians (men, especially), but he himself would be kept safer from the temptations that are pretty much drowning him. What if, those kinds of relationship things happening, he could then be told about the love of Jesus, prayed with, maybe come to Jesus himself and become part of a Christian community - of the church. Maybe end up being healed by the Great Physician Himself.

Do you think I am wrong about this? Or do you wonder, along with me, where is our grace as believers? How are we "being Jesus" to others - as He was to prostitutes, thieves, traitors... As He is to us?

Is it possible for even this "greatest of sinners" to be welcomed by God as a child of His? Does God call us to be agents of grace? To show unconditional love? To care as He cares? How can that happen? How can you and I be part of it?


I just read a blog post at subversive1 called, "Who exactly is my neighbour?" I think it offers some worthwhile perspectives to my questions!


Norma Hill - aka penandpapermama said...

A quote from Philip Yancey's "What's so Amazing About Grace?" :

(p 151) …in the Old Testament a ladder of hierarchy separated people from their God, this one based not on prestige but on “cleanness” or “holiness.”
It is one thing to label animals unclean and quite another to label people unclean, but Old Testament laws did not shrink from that step…
(p 152) Peter continued, ‘But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.’ A revolution of grace was under way, one that Peter could hardly comprehend…
(p 153) In essence, Jesus canceled the cherished principle of the Old Testament, No Oddballs Allowed, replacing it with a new law of grace: ‘We’re all oddballs, but God loves us anyway.’…
Rung by rung, Jesus dismantled the ladder of hierarchy that had marked the approach to God. He invited defectives, sinners, aliens, and Gentiles – the unclean! – to God’s banquet table…
(p 154) Jesus’ point: those judged undesirable by everyone else are infinitely desirable to God, and when one of them turns to God, a party breaks out….
Jesus reversed the process [of the Levitical laws]: rather than being contaminated [by touching those who were unclean], he made the other person whole. ..
I sense in Jesus’ approach a fulfillment, not an abolition, of the Old Testament laws. God had ‘hallowed’ creation by separating the sacred (p155) from the profane, the clean from the unclean. Jesus did not cancel out the hallowing principle, rather he changed its source. We ourselves can be agents of God’s holiness, for God now dwells within us. In the midst of an unclean world we can stride, as Jesus did, seeking ways to be a source of holiness. The sick and the maimed are for us not hot spots of contamination but potential reservoirs of God’s mercy. We are called upon to extend that mercy, to be conveyers of grace, not avoiders of contagion. Like Jesus, we can help make the ‘unclean’ clean….
The apostle Paul – initially one of the most resistant to change… ended up writing these revolutionary words: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Jesus’ death, he said, broke down the temple barriers, dismantling the dividing walls of hostility that had separated categories of people. Grace found a way.”

Norma Hill - aka penandpapermama said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
norma j hill said...

The young man's father (whom I have met in the past... at a church gathering) was interviewed on TV. You could tell he was heartsick at how his son was being treated. He said that the young man was himself abused as a child. And that he and his son decided to go to the hospital for help ... and the "help" they got was for his son to be smeared like this in the community. It was heartbreaking to watch. Now what?