John A. Braun
My heart sinks at recent headlines. The news from Pennsylvania has shaken the Roman Catholic Church. Sexual abuse—pedophilia by high ranking clergy and ordinary priests—has become public. These allegations have also surfaced in the Philippines, Austria, South America, and India.
My heart sinks because of the victims whose lives have been altered. What frustration and anger fill their lives! But the abuse stretches into the lives of those who love them and have tried to help them. Yet the help for the wounds and scars left by trusted religious leaders was inadequate. A wall of secrecy blocked efforts to heal and comfort. Those who inflicted the abuse on these boys “weaponized faith” to maintain secrecy.
My heart also sinks because of the pain many people beyond the victims and their families must now endure. They have been betrayed by their clergy. I’ve seen some turn their backs on the explanations provided, some walk out so filled with rage they cannot listen, and some protest the handling of the abuse. Still others call for the pope’s resignation.
I have no joy in what I see and how it has affected and will affect so many. But I also will not adopt the pose of a Pharisee. I cannot stand in the house of God and say, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people” (Luke 18:11). I know that our church has its own dirty laundry. I know that as long as we live in this world our sinful flesh remains. The darkness of sin and the paralysis of weakness lurk within each of us.
My heart is heavy for those who hurt. Yet I find room for outrage. Men of power and influence preyed on the young they trained to respect them. My outrage extends to a systematic shell game used to hide the offenders and a structure that is built on the ordinance of celibacy. Celibacy and Holy Orders contribute to the problem. Those teaching are not biblical teaching, but human rules (Matthew 15:9).
Such tragedies have no silver lining. They are deep and dark miasmas from which there is no exit except Jesus. Indictments, trials, and exposure of sin are only the first steps toward the light of forgiveness and cleansing through Jesus’ blood (1 John 1:7). I can only advise all those broken and abused souls—victims and all others touched by this evil—to move toward the healing of Jesus. When others abuse us in this life, Jesus stands firm in his love and compassion for all of us. We should pray for them all.
Perhaps the deepest sadness I feel is that, for many, the healing power of the cross of Jesus may be difficult to find. Jesus made one complete and full sacrifice for sin, “once for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:27). “It is finished,” Jesus said. That’s the great testimony of his deep love for us—a reminder that God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). That love does not disappear in the abuse of others or in the great sins from which we recoil in outrage. It embraces the victims with healing and calls evildoers to repentance and renewal (Romans 2:4).
What can we all learn? Pray! The days are evil (Ephesians 5:16), and that evil is real, perverse, and relentless in its efforts to corrupt every Christian no matter what denomination. Be vigilant in preserving the Lord’s truth for its power against evil. Then also demand godly behavior from those who lead us and our congregations (1 Timothy 3).
John Braun is executive editor of the Forward in Christ magazine.
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Author: John A. Braun
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us