Dear Cross Community,
By now you have likely heard the reports of the alleged sexual assault that took place recently at Rockville High School. Per the reports, the victim was a 14 year-old female student and the assailants, two male students, ages 17 and 18. News of this sort is always disturbing, but it is particularly shocking and upsetting when it happens in our community. We don’t expect this kind of crime to take place in Rockville, in one of our schools.
I personally am feeling a mixture of outrage, anger and grief. I have a precious daughter who is a Junior at Gaithersburg High and this feels WAY too close to home. Erin and I even had a text from a family member in California that expressed concern about putting our kids into the Rockville schools. This has made national news, and not surprisingly become part of the broader partisan political conversation.
As I have been processing all of this, I have been asking myself, what does the Cross of Jesus Christ say in a situation like this? How should the gospel inform our thoughts?
Let me begin by saying our faith as Christians doesn’t take away from the ugliness of sexual violence; it doesn’t mitigate the crime, nor do away with civil consequences. The gospel does not allow us to turn a blind eye to evil; neither does it anesthetize us from feeling the indignity and ugliness of violence and sin. Sexual predation and violence is appalling and unacceptable. Period.
For some reading this, thinking about this is difficult to even consider because it brings to mind memories of a painful experience in your own life. One thing we have to understand is that the Cross does not erase the past, nor does it white-wash wickedness. On the contrary, the gospel actually highlights the hideousness of sin – that the perfect Son of God had to suffer the injustice of the Cross in order to forgive sin reveals how horrible sin truly is. But the Cross also reveals there is something greater than sin, even the worst, most disturbing of sins.
The Cross should inform at least three categories: 1) our pain 2) our outrage 3) our actions.
- Our Pain. Despite whatever has been done to us and the suffering we have experienced, and no matter whatever we have done and the guilt we may still feel and the consequences that we were dealt, the Cross tells us God cares about our suffering as well as our sin. Jesus is proof that God loves us and his resurrection from the dead declares God’s victory over sin. The Good News of Jesus offers us hope that our suffering and sin is not the end of the matter; indeed, far from it, God can redeem the past and use it both to glorify him and to re-create us into something better even on account of what we have experienced.
- Our Outrage. News like this causes an indignation in us that can be hard to articulate. The crime is so heinous, the hurt so profound. There is a part of us that wants the worst possible judgment for the perpetrators of such acts. If we are to be honest, it can lead us to hold on to hateful and vengeful thoughts in our hearts. The Cross softens our hearts – again, not to mitigate our perspective on evil, but in our self-exalting condemnation and wrath against other sinners and other opinions. As we consider how God has dealt with us, how our sin and our evil have been paid for through Jesus’ suffering and death on our behalf, our hearts step down from the seat of judgment and we are able to profess that, except for God’s grace, we would be no better. Should we still pray for and pursue righteousness and work against evil? Most definitely. But the Cross humbles us from exalting ourselves and our self-righteous outrage over other “worse” sinners.
- Our Actions. Since the news came out on this, there has been a frenzy of accusations, demonstrations, and demonizations of various parties and policies. Our society is ripe for explosive responses to such news. How should we respond as the church, as Cross Community – as those who have been changed by the Cross? I believe, more than ever, we need to be a people who speak and live – who respond to such divisive circumstances – with the message of reconciliation that God has delivered through the Cross of Jesus. In other words, we should respond as ambassadors of healing. What these events reveal is how much hurt there is in this world. These sorts of crimes not only increase pain, but in various ways reveal the pain that is everywhere. Everyone – including the alleged perps – has a story and because of sin, all of our stories contain pain. We may never know the background stories to the individuals involved in this situation or of the people shouting and demonstrating, but we know from our own stories that all of us have experienced real pain, and all of us need the healing balm of the Gospel, the reconciling ministry of the Cross of Jesus.
Friends, what does this look like practically? Figuring this out can be even more challenging than getting our hearts right. Thus, I would invite your input on this. Indeed, I am asking for your help. We are a church. We are a community that seeks to worship together, to help each other, to serve the city together in the mission God has given to us as Cross Community Church. We have a calling and opportunity to be ambassadors of healing reconciliation in Rockville.
Let’s begin with prayer – for wisdom, for love, for healing for our community, for the light of the gospel to shine through our church. If any of you would like to talk this over or if you are struggling and would like some pastoral counsel or care, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Praying for wisdom and grace,