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Saturday, January 16, 2016

When Our Neighbors Are Caught In A Sting, Who Will Cast The First Stone?

Lady Justice, Rockingham Court House
A recent prostitution sting operation in our town has resulted in the arrest of ten of our local citizens. Nine remain, the tenth, at age 75, has committed suicide. The lives of the others, along with their families, will never be the same. 

From one perspective, a sting operation of this kind may seem perfectly justified (see extensive front page piece in today's Daily News-Record), especially in cases where it can nab predators who are taking advantage of disempowered individuals as prey, whether they be children, coworkers or street walkers. Choices have consequences, and predators must be brought to justice. 

But should such operations be used to indict and publicly name citizens who have had no prior record of the kind of wrongdoings for which they are now presumed guilty--and even before having the benefit of a trial? Or should they be used only to help apprehend people already suspected of being engaged in criminal activity?

Our criminal justice system is by its very nature "tough on crime", and in the case of offenders who persist in wrongdoing, it should be. We should all be outraged over those who shamelessly abuse their power at the expense of the powerless.

But Jesus also teaches us not to be quick to "cast the first stone”. For while few of us may ever have our names listed on the National Sex Offender Registry, 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 wrongs.

So let us favor grace, but without resorting to "cheap grace". Let's support forgiveness, but not forgiveness as in "let's pretend this never happened". True forgiveness is in response to a demonstration of a 180-degree about face and a commitment to strict and ongoing accountability of the kind that ensures that everyone is safe, including the former perpetrator.

But without the possibility of redemption, there is no hope for any of us. For in thought, word, or deed, we are all sex offenders.
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