Culture At Large

Jerry Sandusky and the reach of God's grace

Vincent Bacote

Since the name “Jerry Sandusky” came to notoriety last year due to allegations of serial sexual abuse against a number of young boys, we have been waiting for the trial and conviction that has now arrived. We have heard about victims telling similar, cringe-worthy stories of abuse, as well as the attempts of Sandusky’s defense to propose a conspiracy theory tied to dreams of large payouts at the expense of an upstanding citizen who only wanted to help children. 

It is not a stretch to assume that upon viewing clips of Sandusky entering and exiting the courtroom or images of his face in the news, there is an immediate response of antipathy and perhaps rage. All of this makes perfect sense, but I have found myself asking a difficult question: how should I think about someone like Sandusky when I desire justice, but also recall that he is a person who is created in God’s image? And then this: what does it mean to believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is truly good news about God’s grace and mercy toward sinners? 

I have thought about and prayed for these young men who have been wrecked, but that’s the easier part. The difficult part concerns Sandusky.

For sure, one can counter with this: “Have you thought about the victims of this cascade of evil?” Indeed, I have thought about and prayed for these young men who have been wrecked, but that’s the easier part. The difficult part concerns Sandusky. It isn’t hard for a Christian to believe that the charges against Sandusky are ringing affirmations of the total depravity of humans, but do we move beyond this to conclude that the Sanduskys in our world reveal that they have cast aside the imago dei? Are these persons no longer human beings? The point is not one of guilt or innocence; rather, it concerns what Christians should affirm about others, even when they commit unspeakably evil acts. 

If we believe that all humans are in God’s image and that Christ’s redemption is truly an expression of a grace available to the worst of sinners, do we then look at someone like Sandusky and say, “You are beyond the reach of God’s grace?” 

I’m not asking easy questions and they are hard to answer in an easy fashion when we hear about people like Sandusky, Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy. Perhaps it is even harder to answer such questions when acts of evil happen close to us, but here’s the simple fact: as forgiven Christians, we can’t stick our heads in the sand and avoid these questions and also proclaim the true depth of the Gospel that brings a truly amazing grace.

What Do You Think?

  • How do you wrap your mind around the sort of evil revealed in the Sandusky trial?
  • Has someone like Sandusky cast aside imago dei?
  • Do you believe someone can fall beyond God’s grace?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Theology, News & Politics, Justice, North America