Crisis on Campus: How Should We Respond?
The following is the substance of a brief message I gave to Calvary Elements students on Monday night. There’s obviously much more that needs to be said, but this is a start.
1. We Should Care—for the Right Things
For most of you, it’s a given that you’ll care deeply about what’s happening. It seems that everyone is talking about it, and has strong feelings about it.
But for those of you who are feeling detached from the whole thing, who tend to think it’s just a media circus that’s been blown way out of proportion…think again. We should care about everything that’s happening right now. We should not distance ourselves from this, even though it’s painful and disgusting. Nor should we just be detached in a voyeuristic, morbidly curious way.
We should care because this is our university. We should care because thousands of lives are being changed right now. Yes, we should care because it seems the entire media universe has descended on our little town. But most of all we should care because of the fate of those 8 (and counting) boys whose lives have been unspeakably damaged. We should grieve for them. We should mourn for them.
I’ll confess that when this story first broke over the weekend, the enormity of evil was slow to dawn on me. I was in denial. Some of my initial thoughts were about Urban Meyer and if he would be Penn State’s next coach. But then the horrific nature of what transpired snowballed through my mind. And now that care has descended on many of us like a dark, heavy cloud.
So let me address those of us who care deeply: let’s care for the right things. More than football, more than the University’s reputation, more than JoePa’s legacy, we must care for those kids! Let’s pray for them, as Joe and others have continually reminded us to. Let’s pray that something redemptive can come out of this. Perhaps a new initiative to curb child abuse that puts THON to shame in terms of money, energy, and success?!
2. Pray for Justice to be Done and for Mercy to Triumph
God desires justice. He hates injustice. He hates those who oppress the weak, the orphaned, the powerless. He hates those who are dishonest, who play favorites, who lead in self-serving pragmatism rather than doing what is right. Because God cares about justice, we should care to. And we should leave justice to him, and to the authorities appointed to carry out justice.
And since all of us stand before a holy God as guilty, and in need of God’s mercy, let us pray that mercy wins out. Yes, even a Jerry Sandusky is not too evil to receive God’s mercy. I see an understandable tendency for people to distance themselves from such a monster. But the truth will not be so neat. Even as new details emerge, and as people condemn and vilify those that should have done more to stop this, we will need mercy. We will need forgiveness. We will need grace. And grace only comes through Jesus.
3. Be a Light
It’s for times like these that God has put Christians at Penn State. Amidst the sadness, grief, brokenness, confusion, and anger, Christians must be light. We can offer hope. As people sort themselves into camps for and against JoePa, Spanier, the Board of Trustees, the media, and more, we can offer people a different choice: neither blind rage nor naïve hope in the people and institutions that have failed us. The smug, self-righteous condemnation of people on the outside is offensive. But so is the reflexive defense of anything and everything Penn State. We can offer people the light of Christ—light that exposes the deeds of darkness. Light that exposes what is truly evil and wrong, and calls it that; but also light that purifies and gives life. We are here for a reason, to be the light of Christ.
And so let me challenge you here, with something that is proving to be hard for me: Don’t be a mere partisan in this. Don’t be content to simply take sides like everybody else, and ride the waves of outrage and media news cycles. Let your opinions reflect those of Christ. Talk about Christ. Reflect on what all this means from God’s perspective, and how this points us to our need for a Redeemer. Times like these uncover a lot of raw things in people’s lives—minister to that with the Gospel. Offer them the hope and light of the Gospel.
One Final Word: And let me be sure to say this—if you are one of those who have been abused and unspeakably wounded in the ways mentioned in this case, please talk to someone. Please receive help. I know that coming forward and talking about it can be incredibly hard, but come into the light. Receive the healing and hope of Jesus to free you from fear, shame, and guilt. Please, don’t miss this moment.