As an extension of my recent post about putting child sexual abuse victims first, I’d like to offer some suggestions about how changing our thoughts and words can better protect them.
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I keep hearing this refrain: “Sin is sin.” I’ve heard it from friends in person, and it abounds on Facebook and blogs.
From people I know personally, I can tell that it is sincere and well-intentioned.
But the statement is simply not true, and I’d like to offer that it can actually be damaging.
Here is one simple Bible verse that supports the idea that not all sins are equal:
“All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.” –1 John 5:17
(For more verses, check out this article:
Author Elizabeth Esther says it well:
“But here’s the problem: when EVERYTHING and EVERYONE is equally evil, then NOTHING is actually evil. In other words, the unintended consequence of we-are-all-evil is that it literally makes a mean thought as bad as actual murder…And therefore, since we wouldn’t take a glutton to court for overeating, then we shouldn’t prosecute a sexual molester for abusing children because it’s ALL THE SAME.”
Here’s a practical example:
Scenario A: Imagine your husband is out with friends for the night while you are home with your 3 young children. He’s celebrating a buddy’s new engagement. He has too many drinks and decides to drive home. On the drive home, he weaves in and out of lanes and slams into another car, killing a young couple and their baby on their way home from a family vacation.
Scenario B: Your 16 year old son wants to drive to a party one night at a buddy’s house. You say no. He sneaks out and takes the car anyway.
Are sins committed in both scenarios? Yes.
Do both sins cause damage on some level? Yes.
Are both sins equal in gravity? No.
Are both sins crimes? No.
Our legal system distinguishes differences in offenses. We have felonies, misdemeanors, and offenses that are not even charged. Consequences are meted out accordingly.
Would a drunk driver simply be given a ticket? No.
More serious consequences must be delivered for his own good and the safety of the community.
Do people reason that we shouldn’t speak out against the dangers of drunk driving because, heck, we all sin too? We can’t be judging that drunk driver? No.
Do people reason that, hey, that drunk driver who killed a family apologized. It’s in the past now. Let’s all move on? No.
Why, then, do we respond this way when children are sexually abused? If a perpetrator apologizes, we hear:
“(S)he repented. Sin is sin. We all sin. We need to forgive and move on. It’s in the past.”
Yes, all sin is wrong. Yes, we all sin. Yes, all sin can be forgiven. However, some sins are more serious than others, and those are often classified as crimes.
More serious consequences must be delivered for the perpetrator’s own good and the safety of the community.
We, who witness abuse, have the power to step in, protect children and insist on action. When we fail to do so, evil persists, leaving children at risk.
Not only can we protect them better when abuse is disclosed, but we need to insist that perpetrators be held accountable. Their behavior is predatory, and it does not just go away with an apology (should one even be issued.) It is an addiction. Without treatment, or jail time, it will not stop, and more children’s lives will be devastated.
Perpetrators target churches because they know churches are filled with relatively trusting people. As Christians, our sense of charity, mercy, and forgiveness are manipulated. We are eager to see people changed and reconciled.
However, rehabilitation of an offender is a long road that requires humility, hard work, perseverance, and accountability, and few offenders are truly committed to that process. We cannot afford to be naive about that reality.
When we are, children become the guinea pigs for testing a perpetrator’s “repentance.”
The danger in asserting that “all sin is sin” in the case of abuse is that we can fail to call out true evil that must be confronted.
Having sins in our own lives cannot keep us from confronting sin that is crime. (<==Click to tweet.) It is not “judging” to be loud and clear about what will and will not be tolerated—especially when we are talking about the weakest and most vulnerable among us.
Let’s stop saying that all sin is the same. Not only is that not true, but it becomes a spiritual trap that leaves children at risk.
Molesting a child is not just a “mistake” or “indiscretion.” It is a crime as well as sin, and we need to call it what it is, even if it was never prosecuted. This needs to be a regular part of our vocabulary.
When abuse is minimized and wrongly spiritualized, it compounds the trauma of those who’ve been abused. However, when you speak with strength about the truth of the realities of abuse, you validate the experiences of those who’ve been abused. You facilitate their healing. You also protect children.
Change begins with acknowledging the problem. (<==Click to tweet.)
Your words are powerful. Speak truth and life.
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Have you encountered a situation in which accurate words really matter?
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Photo Credit: Pier-Luc Bergeron
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