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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

We Are All Sex Offenders

Jesus with the woman caught in adultery
Most of us will likely avoid ever having our names listed on the National Sex Offender Registry, but virtually none of us is without sin in this area. Whether in word, deed or in X-rated imagination, we have compiled our own record of secret (or not so secret) wrongdoing we'd rather not have exposed.

And we are not alone. In the Bible, even the patriarch Abraham shamelessly lies about Sarai being his wife and makes her available to another man in order to save his own life. His nephew Lot offers his virgin daughters in the same inexcusable way.

King David is guilty of both voyeurism and outright adultery with Bathsheba, then arranges to have her husband die undefended in battle in order to cover up his reprehensible behavior. And both he and his heir to the throne, King Solomon, used their power to gain and to dominate multiple wives and mistresses. These are dark and troubling stories.

The other side of the Biblical narrative is about God's mercy and forgiveness. Thank God that whenever there is genuine repentance there is also amazing grace, grace not only to erase sexual and other sins sins from our record but to keep us from repeating them.

Our legal system is seldom so forgiving, and in the case of offenders not turning away from their wrongdoing, it shouldn't be.

But can people committing even sexual wrongdoing get the help they need to experience genuine change? Does the 19 year-old who has sex with an underage 15 year-old girl friend need to be branded a terrible person for the rest of his life? Must everyone who sexually misuses or abuses another be forever considered unable to return to some kind of normal life if they do everything necessary to become transformed into decent human beings?

Or are sexual sins in a category totally different from others, out of the reach of God' grace and others' help?

I vote for grace, but not cheap grace. I support forgiveness, but not forgiveness as in "let's pretend this never happened". True forgiveness is God's kind of response to a demonstration of a 180 degree about face and a commitment to strict and ongoing accountability, one that insures that everyone is safe, including the former perpetrator.

If that is never possible, there is no hope for any of us.
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