By now we are acutely aware of the scandal in Otega Township. The charges of theft have been highly publicized and extremely exposed in the Brownstown community. As is typical, but unfortunate, there are some who appear to celebrate with glee the demise of the former township supervisor. There has been strong advocating for a maximum, harsh and severe penalty. Expressions seem to be hate-filled, and nearly violent. One cannot but believe that these, even public, expressions are more the result of personal vendettas and personality conflicts than a call for legitimate and fair justice for the former supervisor.
As pastor of this individual and his family, I do not intend to assess what a fair judgment would be, but I do wish to set forth some biblical insight with which my church and I shall be guided in regard to this matter.
1) None of us is without sin. We shall all stand before the judge of the whole earth (Genesis 18:25), who makes no mistake, knows us thoroughly and is not a respecter of persons.
2) When more concern is made of man’s law than of God’s law, judgment is at best obscured and at worst perverted. Some of the advocates of harshness have been involved in scandals of their own making in the not-so-distant past. Although they did not violate man’s law, God imposed the penalty of death for several sins under the law of Moses. Adultery is one of those sins, and has been very vivid and prevalent among us. Sabbath breaking and taking the Lord’s name in vain is also included in this list. Theft required merely restitution, plus 20 percent to be paid to the offended party. It is obvious which crime receives the most leniency before God. In the end, however, the wages of every sin is death (Romans 6:23).
3) Jesus taught that the judgment you use for others will be the judgment measured to you (Matthew 7:2). Rash penalties should be weighed carefully before being determined on anyone. Judgment without mercy is not a standard I wish to uphold.
4) When certain conditions exist, we should be willing and eager to show mercy and compassion. In no way do I wish to excuse sin, neither do I wish to discredit justice. An orderly society demands it. However, circumstances are such that I believe mercy should be considered. At least in the heart, mind and attitude of those who bear the name of Christ.
a) The crime was confessed publicly before an arrest was made. When confronted, confession was made in regard to at least one of the charges and restitution was made at that time. The gentleman came to me, as pastor, at that time to confess, apologize and repent of his sin. I have no doubt the repentance was and remains genuine. He immediately thereafter made confession to his family and friends. In addition, public confession and repentance was made before a Sunday morning congregation at First Baptist Church of Brownstown. Finally, a plea of guilty was submitted to the court.
b) Possessions held dear have been sold for the purpose of making restitution. This happened without coercion or court order. As much as humanly possible, the family has sacrificed in attempt to make things right. Restitution has been voluntary and immediate, where possible.
c) Steps have been pursued to preclude even the desire for similar activity in the future.
5) As pastor, I have witnessed a changed heart and deep remorse.
Any desire to embarrass or humiliate this individual and his family is wrong-spirited, unbecoming of Christ, and diametrically opposed to the example and teaching of Christ.
Forgiveness by the church, as a body and Christian believers everywhere, is the only appropriate response. Prayer is the only recourse, as rehabilitation and restoration to fellowship is sought and gained.
I do not rejoice that sin has been committed. I am thankful for the opportunity to demonstrate the grace of God as an individual and as a congregation. Neither I nor the First Baptist Church of Brownstown have been, or shall be, ashamed or embarrassed to show love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and reception to any repentant sinner. There will be no demotion of this person in the eyes of myself or our church. In fact, it takes a bigger man to confess than to remain a hypocrite.
In our church, sinners are at home. Every one of our members has confessed themselves to be despicable sinners capable of no good works and completely consumed in guilt. That, with a confession that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins in His death, is essential to becoming a member. Not one of us is better than another.
Becoming a Christian is not the end of temptation. Everyone is capable of committing any sin imaginable. Some are tempted in one area, some in another area. “Let him that thinks he stand take heed, lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).
It remains my resolve, and that of our church, to protect, love and uphold this family. Unkind and hurting words have been said to them all. Implications have been issued of horrendous desires toward this person. Before we lynch someone in our minds or berate a fallen comrade, let us look deeply within ourselves. The root of every sin lies in each of us.
The people of God must be a forgiving people.
Whatever sentence the court deems appropriate, let us personally hide a multitude of sins with love toward our brethren (James 5:19-20).
Dr. Olen M. Evans
First Baptist Church Brownstown