Almost every day, the media publish new facts relating to abuse and other acts of violence. The torrent of revelations about sexual misconduct in the Roman-Catholic Church but also in evangelical communities keeps flowing. The same is true for misuse of power by trainers and coaches in sports, as well as by the stars of show business.
When reading or hearing all this, many people are not only indignant but also surprised. How can highly regarded clergymen or admired citizens do such horrible things?
As a seminary student, I heard one of my professors saying: ‘Do not be surprised about sin; only be surprised about God’s grace.’ In his view, ministers who were surprised when confronted with sins in the congregation gave evidence of immaturity. He was surely right. Christ has beaten Satan, but still the power of the Evil One manifests itself everywhere, also among church members. Yet, one should never take this as merely something that could be expected. The frequency of sinful acts never makes them normal, but only more awful. This state of affairs gives us even more reason to be surprised about God’s grace. The more we grow in faith, the more we will be amazed about God’s saving interventions. Such amazement will enable us to condemn sin and at the same time show compassion, with victims but also with offenders, for it is only God’s grace that protects us against following their example. It will also provide us with perseverance, as we realise that God himself guarantees the final victory over all evil.
Gert Kwakkel Professor of Old Testament, Faculté Jean Calvin, Theologische Universiteit Kampen Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians