As a native of central Pennsylvania, I grew up an avid fan of Penn State football. In my office I have two Coke bottles, each depicting national championship teams in 1982 and 1986. On my bookshelves are two volumes on Coach Joe Paterno and a Wheaties box that features him on the front.
When we moved to Canada as missionaries in 1982, our location placed us in a situation where getting network TV programming was impossible. So Sharon and I rented a motel room in the nearest town just so we could watch Penn State play for the national title (and defeat Georgia in the process). I still recall the Nittany Lion marching band victoriously playing The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia. That was the only time we ever rented a room but did not bother to stay for the night!
I remain an avid follower of Penn State to this day. So it was with great pain that we, along with the rest of the “Nittany Nation,” received the news that retired, long-time defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been indicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse of minors. While one is innocent until proven guilty, the mountain of alleged evidence is greatly troubling at this time, to say the least.
Penn State has prided itself on running a “clean” athletic program, epitomized by the philanthropic work of Coach Paterno and his wife, Sue. Paterno has always been about much more than athletic accomplishments, setting him apart from many of his peers.
So the shock of these recent revelations about Sandusky is intensely difficult to bear. Before he retired from Penn State, Jerry was widely considered a likely candidate to eventually replace Coach Paterno. He had built a strong reputation for defensive excellence, earning Penn State the nickname “Linebacker U” and producing such defensive standouts as All-Pro Shane Conlon and Hall-of-Famer, Jack Ham.
How could a man with such accomplishments and long-term record of excellence fall into the gross sins of which he is accused? The answer is found in the inherent nature of the sinful human heart. Jeremiah wrote these words, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who an know it?” We each are born with a heart capable of the alleged crimes of Jerry Sandusky, and worse. That is why we need a savior.
The proper response to the devastating news out of State College this weekend is to grieve over these alleged violations of the law of God and to remind ourselves of our own need of repentance and cleansing by the blood of Jesus Christ. Rather than taking a “holier than thou” approach to such crimes, we must acknowledge that “there but for the grace of God go I.”
Let us give thanks once again for the gospel of Christ that proclaims that the power of God will change our wicked, hard hearts and make us willing and able to follow Him in faithfulness and truth. And let us pray for Jerry Sandusky and all those caught up in this horrible scandal. May the truth prevail and justice be done. And justice will be done on that final Day of Judgment that awaits every man.