Dealing with sexual predators: objections answered...

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Let's dive further into the discussion of how to deal with God's people concerning sexual abuse, both the perpetrators and their victims, but also the weak, potential victims and potential predators. Why now?

Because it just so happens that this is a giant problem in the church today, whether reformed, evangelical, libertarian, homeschool, credo or paedo, family-integrated, or program-central. Of course, somebody might object that right now is not the best time because there's a war on. Or maybe they'll say that discussing it now is going to cause undue pain to a particular perp or victim. Consider this your trigger warning, if you're that sensitive, and stop reading now. 

Cross-fire and friendly fire are part of the terrain in war. We don't stop fighting the war out of fear of such things. And yes, we correct one another and redirect our friend's attention to bigger problems even while screaming orcs are trying to kill both of us. Remember when Aragorn yells at Legolas in the middle of the battle of Helm's Deep? Legolas doesn't respond with "Can't you see orcs are attacking me?" Both of them know full well that orcs are attacking everybody good on all sides. He assumes, rightly, that if his friend is yelling a warning at him... 

there's a good reason and a particularly important, time-sensitive danger needs to be addressed that affects all the good guys, equally. He doesn't claim the status of the weak, needing to be coddled at this difficult time. He can handle his friend yelling a warning at him.

It just so happens that giant orcs have been carrying torches inside our churches and lighting bombs that are blowing up, not just one person, but whole families, and more. The threat is so serious that, when the bomb is finally revealed, multiple churches might suffer such substantial damage that they never fully recover. In other words, the long-term spiritual well being—and often the very faith—of hundreds of people is in play. This is not hyperbole. This is the danger of hidden sexual sin against children. The sapper who saps the life out of our churches. The hidden reef (Jude 12, 13) The one who turns grace into licentiousness (Jude 4). 

With that explained, we continue the discussion of what to do with such women and men.

Let's start with the one fact that can't be repeated often enough: whether woman or man, mother or father, sister or brother, youth pastor, seminary student, or choir director, the sexual predator must be reported and turned over to the civil authority. However, our church's dealing with such a man is not dependent on the government. In too many cases, the prosecutor can't or won't proceed with charges against the perpetrator. Does this mean the church can't deal with him as a perpetrator?

Of course not. If a communing member of the church is known by the elders to be a man who has made a habit of grooming and sexually abusing children in multiple families, in multiple places, in muptiple states, over an extended period of time, it matters not a whit what such a man has been convicted of in a court of law. The elders and pastors must treat him according to the facts they know. And if they don't know the details, they haven't done their job. We are watchmen, after all—this is the work to which God has called us.

The reason we must investigate the case of the weak and helpless is not so that we can demonize the guilty, but so we are able and ready to truly protect those under our care. To be sure, some have said, "Once a pedophile, always a pedophile," thus denying the power of God to change lives. But it is possible to fall into the same error in other ways.

For example, claiming that the only hope for a man burning with lust is marriage is also a denial of God's ability to change lives. Yes, of course it is one of the gifts God has given to some men to help them fight their sin. But others are not forced into sin by our refusing to allow them to wed another. For example, when we agree with the homosexually-tempted man who can find no ability to desire a woman when he says he cannot marry a woman, by our agreement we are not consigning him to live in sin the rest of his life. Despite his burning, marriage is not an option. He must fight sin another way. So also with the serial and predatory child molester. The reasons differ for these two men, but the outcome is the same: marriage is forbidden, and this is no denial of the scandal of the Gospel nor the power of God to change lives.

If the serial child molester desires to wed with the explicit intention of never having children, he is not seeking a biblical marriage. If he desires to marry and have children, we cannot in good conscience consent to children being given over to such danger. What will you say to the son of such a man if he is abused? "You knew what my dad was like and you let him get married and have children, anyway? Why?"

"Well, because the Gospel is big enough to change all of us."

Sure, that's true. But it's irrelevant to the question.

Lord willing, such a man may be changed and finally overcome his burning lust. Yet, just as importantly, for church officers to keep that man's past sin and likely continued temptations in remembrance, and to be on guard and set up fences against them, is not even the slightest denial of the Gospel. Indeed, these things must be done. We must treat this man differently because of the sin he has committed. And in some degree or another, we must treat him that way permanently.

This is where some jump up and say, "Grace! Grace! We can't think this way of a brother in Christ. The Covenant applies to him as much as it does you or me!"

Those who want to respond that way have not been paying close enough attention. 

In point of fact, remembering his sin and treating him differently because of his sin is not controversial. Everyone agrees with it because everyone agrees that such a man should not be working in our nursery. Why not?

Because it is incumbent upon us to protect the children from danger, protect the convicted serial child abuser from danger of falling back into his former sin, and protect the church and God's name from scandal. So if we are not willing to risk the children of the church by putting them under such a man's care, precisely why must we suddenly forget what he's done when he wants to have children of his own? Why does grace apply to one circumstance and not the other? Or, more pertinently, why do some children deserve our protection from such a man, but not others? If we won't even let him work in the nursery where other adults will be present, all in a public building, how much more should we prevent children from being alone with him in his own home? Is blood actually thicker than water? 

But you may object quoting "of such were some of you" (1Corinthians 6:11).

True. But when? Jude warns us against people inside our church sinning in grievous ways while participating in our love feasts whereas Paul appears to be talking about people who repented of such sins on their way into the household of faith. There's a difference, and often in these situations we are dealing with the former—with Jude rather than Paul. We are talking about a child of the covenant destroying the innocence of other children, being a terrible stumbling block to them. Other times we are talking about an adult member in good standing pursuing and grooming little ones so he can corrupt them. And, all too often, we are talking about both in one man. 

In other words, we are often talking about the horror of one who says he is a new creation, week in and week out for years claiming the blood of Christ for himself, week in and week out coming to the Lord's Table, week in and week out refusing to discern the body of our Lord. Does such a man who, for years, has been hardened in his deceitfulness and sexual sin, have no chance of repenting?

Of course not.

But if we are biblical, and we decide we should not turn him over to Satan (1Corinthians 5:5), we will do as Jude commands, having "mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh" (Jude 23). By God's grace, our hope and prayer for them is that they will persevere in the faith and, finally, despite their blatant and habitual covenant breaking and our godly fears, not be found to be "wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever" (Jude 13).

And that's the Gospel. 

Joseph and his wife, Heidi, have five children, Tate, Eliza Jane, Moses, Fiona and Annabel. He graduated from Vanderbilt University and Clearnote Pastors College. He is currently planting Christ Church in Cincinnati with several other families.