Acts 22:22 (NIV)
22 The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!”
The Jews who heard Paul that day hated him so much that they shouted “Rid the Earth of him!” They despised him. He repulsed them. Their hatred was pure and unmitigated by even the slightest portion of grace and mercy. Bursting with rage and disrespect, they saw no reason why Paul should even take his next breath. In an astounding display of gut-level contempt, they had no more concern for this image-bearer of God than if they were looking at a rattlesnake that had bitten hundreds and was finally cornered deserving only execution.
I thought of that kind of fury looking at the photographs of a once-respected sports doctor sitting in the dock in a Michigan courtroom. A platoon of young women testifying that he had abused them in the most vulgar and wicked manner…a long sordid tale almost unbelievable that went on for years. No one hearing their reports had any doubt that he was guilty and the court responded accordingly sentencing him, in effect, to several lifetime sentences in recompense for his evil deeds. He deserved it and then some. Everyone agreed. No pity was expected and even the most tender-hearted among us would say Dr. Nassar must be punished for countless crimes against humanity and God Himself. We can all relate to one father who said “I’d like to tear his head off.” I get it.
Yet…I found myself looking at the man…his head hung down…a distant look in his eyes. So lonely even the Devil would not keep him company. Totally alone. His spirit an empty shell. Almost being put to death as he lived…thoroughly awash in shame and loathing. Perhaps self-loathing. Only he knows. But I wondered…does anyone love him yet? Is he anyone’s dad or brother? Is he anyone’s son? Was he not, in the photos, the most ruined and forsaken of all men we’ve ever seen?
My colleague Pastor Chris Winans pointed out in a semon recently that we treat people according to how we perceive them. Worthy or unworthy. Interesting point. I could only pereceive the accused doctor as little more than repulsive. Just looking at him provoked a desire to turn away.
In the days ahead, Larry Nassar will be the object of industrial strength distain in prison. He is perhaps already a dead man. Yet…here is my question…my haunting and unsettling question: is Larry Nassar, because of his sins, a valueless human being not worth saving? Do I really believe that despite his cruel depravity that God actually loves him…even now?
How will I respond if I hear in a couple of years that he has been born again and his sins have been washed away by the precious blood of Christ himself? So… what if Larry Nassar lives out his earthly days confined to fifty square feet and left to contemplate his own deserved misery yet he is at peace because God has drawn him to Himself and actually loves him?
I shall pray for the women and their families for sure. As a father and grandfather, I am deeply grieved at what he has done and I almost despise him. I’m uneasy admitting that I probably hate someone I only know thru news reports. Most importantly, I sense I need to pray for myself that I would finally grasp that this man with his head hanging and the hopeless look in his eyes was created in the image of God… and that God’s heart hurts immeasurably more than my own. And God be praised for my sake and your sake for His offer of grace…and yes…I need to pray for Larry Nassar’s salvation.
When John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace” he included the line about God who had “Saved a wretch like me.” Many modern churches have changed that verse to read that God “Saved a ONE like me.” But Newton would object. He who had abused the women on his slave ships night after night whenever he felt capricious desire. He rightly perceived his own wickedness. Newton would say “We are wretches!” But God still loved Newton. And He loves us. You and me. And hard to believe…God loves Larry Nassar. God be praised.
Psalm 103:11-14 (NIV) 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
I pray for Mr. Nassar to come under a tidal wave of regret and conviction and then seek the mercies of God thru the Lord Jesus. Join me?