The tragedy that has rocked State College, Pennsylvania, Penn State University and the entire nation is likely far from over. As with any scandalous situation, the longer the investigation goes on the more we learn about how sordid and sad the extent of the problem reaches. The one thing that struck me as most disappointing so far was the outrage and rioting over the firing of a football coach but not for the injustice that was allowed to happen on multiple occasions to young boys. The events that are being unfolded in the plain sight of a watching world are spiritual by nature. I happen to believe that every issue is a spiritual issue. It is a moral issue and somewhere along the line real men should have fought for justice.
We have a moral responsibility to acknowledge when an evil injustice has occurred and then fight for justice to be delivered to the situation and everyone involved. Men of courage will fight for justice, especially for those who cannot fight for themselves. A man of courage is one who has chosen to stand up and become fixed on doing what is right. The tragedy with Penn State and the firing of the legendary football coach, Joe Paterno, reminds us that being "innocent" is not the standard for leadership; rather, being above reproach is the standard for leadership.
What we DON'T know ... We do not know all of the sordid details of all that has happened. Likely we will not know everything for quite a while, if even then. We do not know who did what and when others knew about it. This will have to wait for a thorough investigation.
What we DO know ... We do know that something horrific occurred on multiple occasions from an adult to innocent boys. You would have to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to pretend that you do not know something terrible happened. We also know that several others knew about what was going on. These included persons with direct responsibility for reporting the events to the proper authorities. We can know that a single decision can change the lives of many people. We can know that being passive about fighting for justice leaves an unnecessary trail of victims directly and indirectly.
What we CAN'T say ... Regardless of what our intuition tells us, we are in no place to judge the motives of the adults involved. We can say that what it appears they did was wrong (i.e., inappropriate behavior with children, not reporting to authorities), but we can cannot pass judgment on their motives. For instance, I do not know what was going through Jerry Sandusky's mind. I just know that it could not have been pure and good because of the behavior it led to on his part. I also cannot act like I know what was going through the minds of Joe Paterno, the Athletic Director and the President of Penn State. I just know that evidently they did not consider the problem to be worth fighting for justice based on their actions.
What we CAN say ... We can rightly say that there was not enough done to protect the innocent and hold the guilty accountable and responsible. We can say that good men, though they may be legally innocent, did not fight for justice. We can say that the behavior of adults was inappropriate, even sinful.
What is the threshold for "doing enough" when it comes to fighting for justice? The Bible teaches, "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). In their book The Resolution for Men, Alex and Stephen Kendrick flesh out God's expectations:
- To act justly - to deal fairly and honestly with others, to confront evil both in ourselves and our society, and to intervene on behalf of the weak, vulnerable, mistreated, and oppressed.
- To love mercy - to discern the physical and spiritual needs of others, and to represent the hands and heart of Christ to people who desperately need help, compassion, and deliverance from evil and injustice.
- To walk humbly with your God - to live a circumspect and selfless life before Him, devoted to Him and to His Word, exercising our faith and love in a way that actively, consistently honors Him and His lordship (p. 132).
Fighting for justice is mandatory for us because it reflects our Creator's compassion for people. God created mankind in His image (Genesis 1:26). No other part of God's creation was created with this characteristic. This means that mankind is the pinnacle of God's creation. It also means that we were created with the capacity to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Therefore, an attack on another person is an attack on the image of God. Fighting for justice is a spiritual and moral issue that requires good men to make courageous choices.