The public is outraged these days over the scandal that erupted in State College, Pennsylvania, on November 4th, a place which ironically is called “Happy Valley.” A former assistant football coach at Penn State University was arrested on 40 counts related to allegations of sexual abuse against 8 young boys over a 15 year period, with at least 20 counts taking place while he was still a coach at Penn State. These allegations are devastating enough, but the fact that one of these incidents was allegedly witnessed taking place on the Penn State campus by a graduate assistant of the football program in 2002, reported to the head football coach, and then apparently dropped until an investigation was opened in 2009, if proven true, is mind-boggling. How could such heinous activity be ignored? It appears that the reputation of an institution, the legacy of a legendary head football coach, and a multi-million dollar revenue stream from a sports program were deemed more important to the university than defending the rights of a child whose well being was put at risk. The University president and head football coach were fired on November 9th, presumably to stem the tide of public outrage over this situation. In spite of Grand Jury testimony to the contrary, the accused assistant coach publicly denied any wrong doing on November 15th.
Let’s reflect for a moment. We cry out when wrong asserts itself, particularly against the innocent and helpless, such as what has been alleged in the Penn State incident, and rightly so. But in our outcry against the sins of others, are we blind to the areas of darkness and sin in our own hearts? Our sins may not be as scandalous or widely known, but have we ever made a poor decision that has impacted the life of another? Have we ever compromised our own deeply held values out of expediency? Has our Christian testimony ever been called into question by the appearance of evil? Have the hymnist’s words “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love:” ever echoed in our own hearts? We don’t have to answer out loud, do we? Our hearts tell us what is true.
How do we, who at least on occasion exhibit backslider tendencies, find traction on the slippery slope of life? Scripture is clear. Simply repent and believe the gospel. Jesus came into this world and gave his life for sinners, people with backslider tendencies like you and me. In Christ, we’ve been granted a status of righteousness, yet, we’re prone to wander off the path, view life through worldly eyes, make decisions from a self-centered perspective, compromise our values, and walk in wicked ways. Yet, the good news is that God welcomes us back. As we confess our sins, He forgives, based on the finished work of Christ on the Cross. He invites us to stop moving away from Him and to turn toward Him and receive the grace of forgiveness. I’m reminded of King David’s prayer of confession in Psalm 51, with his sin of adultery with Bathsheba in view. In Psalm 51:10 he writes – “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” As God performs His cleansing work in our hearts, He provides the traction we need to navigate the slippery slope of life through Jesus Christ our Lord. May we ever praise Him for this great truth. – MAJ