A while back, but less than 10 years, my family fell prey to a sexual predator. Some of you may know what that is like, what the roller coaster of emotions one must endure feels like, and how violated you feel when the one that did the harm was supposed to have been a friend.
I’m not going to share many details, but I am thankful for the fact that our loved one didn’t go missing or wasn’t found dead in a ditch. It could have been much worse.
Regardless, as a pastor, I learned some hard lessons about how sexual predators prey on children by infiltrating congregations while disguised as the best church members you could ever want. I also learned that forgiving a sexual predator does NOT translate into wiping the slate clean and “forgetting” in the same way God does our sin.
Initially, even though it’s hard to say with certainty because a man doesn’t truly know what he will do until he’s put in a situation, if given the opportunity I would have killed the man. As a matter of fact, there have been times when I doubted my manhood because I didn’t kill him. But that desire for vengeance has passed.
Do I want the man to be released from prison? Not any time soon. That’s because I don’t want him to have the chance to do more harm, to abuse more young girls. But do I want him to stay in prison forever? Honestly, not really. Actually, it’s not something I think about anymore.
Granted, if he showed up at my door unannounced, there would likely be bloodshed. Just saying. Why? Because I’ll never be able to trust him again. Period.
But do I hate him? No, I don’t. Have I forgiven him? Yes, I have. And I love him, too.
How is this possible? Well, to begin with, I gave him over to the authorities to deal with. They were the ones set up by God to carry out justice on this earth. Taking justice into my own hands would be contrary to God’s law, therefore a sin. I’m not seeking more punishment, for to do so would be seeking vengeance, not justice.
Next, my prayer is that one day this man would genuinely recognize the harm he has done and call out to God for mercy and forgiveness. I want him to feel remorse, but I also want him to bring God glory by calling out to Him in faith.
But this is how I know my heart is right, at least as right as can be considering the circumstances. I would love to see this predator in heaven one day. And do you know what I want to do when I see him there? I want to smile and say to him, “Isn’t God good!”
The greatest end to this tragic story would be to stand there with that sinner and recognize that my own sins would have damned me to hell just like him . . . if not for God’s grace, if not for Jesus!
Then, at that moment, the only right thing to do will be to turn toward the Throne and worship the One who saves to the uttermost!
What glory is there in seeing someone burn in hell for an eternity? God doesn’t want that, for He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The glory comes when God is praised for his grace and mercy that is greater than all our sin! The glory comes when God is praised for eternity and His goodness and wisdom is displayed to all the principalities and powers in heavenly places!
"At the Cross" Alas! and did my Savior bleed And did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head For such a worm as I? Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity! grace unknown! And love beyond degree! But drops of grief can ne’er repay The debt of love I owe: Here, Lord, I give my self away ’Tis all that I can do. At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away, It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day! - Isaac Watts (1707)
Real forgiveness starts at the foot of the Cross.