Tuesday, October 13, 2009


A young man, whom I do not know, wrote on Wade's blog yesterday about how he had been swindled out of the wedding money he had saved over a long period of time___probably several thousands of dollars if I have any memory of wedding cost at all though the amount was not stated___ and had friends who lost their life savings to a "Christian Church Starting Group" during it's financial rape of many Arizona Southern Baptists in the 1990s. Those Southern Baptist leaders, there were several people involved, were recently sentenced to prison for their criminal activity.
[ you can read here...http://kerussocharis.blogspot.com/ Scroll down to the Oct. 13 post.]

Wade was reporting the incident and talking about several other such shenanigans in Southern Baptist life some of which have yet to be made known to the general public. [They will be known eventually you can rest assured.] I, for one, was grateful for that young man's comment because it put a "real people" touch to the discussion of criminal behavior that had been perpetrated by "Christians"

There was a spirited debate that then ensued in the comment section as to the right or wrong of reporting such activities to the general public by other Christians on their blogs and whether we had any right to do anything but forgive and minister to the perpetrators of that crime.

Others sought to defend the whistle blowers and to call for more transparancy of anything done whether immoral or illegal by SBC leadership/pastors/missionaries and christians in general. They contended that Christians are not exempt from facing punishment for crimes they might commit. It is that duel desire of showing grace but wanting punishment that you will find even the young man confessed to having that I want to address in this post. Do Christians, crime and courts go together?

Does, in fact, true grace remove a desire on my part to see the penalty and punishment of the actions of a criminal come to pass if I am truly forgiving and truly loving that person? Or to ask it another way am I truly forgiving and loving a person if I have at the same time a desire to see them charged with, tried for and, in fact, suffer the consequences of their actions legally? How does all this fit in a committed Christian's life who wants to obey scripture and be a good citizen too? In other words, which group in that comment section mentioned in the second paragraph has the correct biblical argument?

In light of the seemingly many Christians and even many in the ministry who are being charged with rape, incest, theft, lying under oath, spousal and child abuse, and a host of other criminal behaviors in our day, it might be very important that we have this conversation at the present time in the life of the Church. Thus my part of the conversation via my blog.

[ you do understand I believe ALL Christians are ministers and I'm simply using this phrase as most of our modern day Christians use it to make a point]

I have two ideas personally that I have had to reconcile.

One is that I believe our posture as Christians should always be one of love and forgiveness to a brother or sister with whom we have a personal relationship who might become involved in criminal activity even if we are the victim. This since Grace is never to be suspended in our relationships with fallen humanity and we are never released from our responsibility to show the love and forgiveness to others that we have graciously received from the Father in Heaven. ["Love one another as I have loved you."]

The second idea to which I hold is that criminal matters are the perogative of the secular courts and the Church has no say in criminal matters unless the law violated was to be in specific contradistinction to the scriptures themselves. This would be illustrated by Peter and John when they were told to "no more speak of the name of Jesus as Lord" under the threat of severe consequences. [Remember it was illegal to call someone Lord other than Caesar under Roman law.]

When I say the Church has no say in criminal matters it is because of what I see in 1 Peter 2:12-16. Read it at your leisure. My understanding is this passage is to be played out even for [no not 'even' let's say 'especially'] Christians when criminal behavior is found to be present in a person. The only exception being that which I mentioned in the preceeding paragraph.

I would even go so far as to say that I believe it to be on the SIDE of Grace and scripture to allow 1 Peter 2:12-16 to take it's course with a professing Christian's criminal behavior and that this is why an abused spouse or one who is aware of child abuse by their spouse is never more submissive and biblical than when that spouse turns the offender in for prosecution. To SAY NOTHING would be criminal not to mention unbiblical.

The evidence for me that Grace DOESN'T suspend the consequences of the illegal activities of people__even professing Christian__is proven in what Jesus experienced on our behalf on the Cross. The whole of God's grace did not keep the weight of the guilt and punishment of our sin from being experienced. In fact, I believe it is the greatest expression OF His Amazing Grace that both [Grace and Consequences] exist and are experienced. So our grace being extended to a guilty person would have nothing to do with a criminal not having to pay legally for illegal activities if I understand this passage and the work of the Cross correctly.

Much abuse, rape, incest, theft, and other crimes can be allowed to go unpunished by secular courts if Christians fail to obey scripture and do not allow those courts to settle criminal issues among believers. Add to that the fact that the crimes yet future those guilty parties WILL commit will rest in shared blame and responsibility on the shoulders of those Christians who chose to remain in an unholy silence and unbiblical submission to the perpetrators.

Christians, crime and courts do go together at times regardless of how distasteful it is for us to admit it. The validity of the Christian profession of one who commits such a crime I'll have to leave with the Lord of the heart. But the validity of the courts right to enact punishment I have no doubt.

Likewise I have no doubt that our great responsibility, yea opportunity, is to visit in prison, minister to families, and even enter into sheperding and helping those who have paid their dues to society with wisdom, grace, common sense, and love once they are on the road of recovery. We are, after all, in all our local fellowships a bit of a hospital for sinners, a school for the ignorant, and and a hot house for tender broken plants in God's garden. All by the Grace of our God.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


Again I find myself in accord with your views.

Without any reference to the situation you have mentioned, I have one grave concern: BEFORE the legal system is brought into the matter, it is imperative that it is clearly established that a crime has been committed.

My best friend, a long time, well respected pastor, was accused, without evidence, had his denomination refuse to acknowledge his existence, his so-called, "brothers in ministry" quickly faded into their own dust cloud, as a consequence, he committed suicide.

I and my family have been through a similar experience, causing me to experience two years of deep depression, something quite foreign to me, a time of which I have little recollection,but during which I apparently was a complete stranger.

It has been my sad experience to have to deal with false accusations against others, which we were able to show were complete fabrications designed to cause hurt, to get even, or some such wickedness.

I am convinced that there is far more of this carnal behavior happening than we care to admit.

Never-the-less, if a Christian is required to face our courts, and found guilty of a crime, they ARE STILL OUR BRETHREN, and ought to be treated as such, with their spiritual restoration and well being uppermost in our minds, all to the glory of our Father.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

You bring up a nuance of this whole thing that may need to be addressed in any conversation about this subject.

Accusations or even being charged with a crime are not the same as a legal conviction of a crime. The difference may be strategic.

Our assumption that punishment is justified is ONLY when a conviction has happened. But the courts require a charging and trial with proof of guilt before that assumption is correct.

I would also say we have a need to give ministry without judgment or condemnation all the way through the process but let the process work.

I'm going to give a couple of examples later today but until then I hope you and some of the regulars will weigh in with thoughts. Your's is a good one with which to staet. Thanks.

Paul Burleson said...

Make that "start." :)

Chuck Andrews said...


Knowing that you have personally had to work through some of these thoughts gives your conclusions that much more credibility.

That is, they are more than just theory. When theology theory is filtered through true life experience it has a tendency to formulate into a theological truth.

This post is a much needed discussion.


Rodney Sprayberry said...

While preaching about the New Covenant earlier this fall, I did a sermon on the issue of sin. Coming from the conviction that all of our sins are paid for past present and future I pointed out that we can rest in the assurance that the penalty for sin is paid for.

However, even though the penalty for sin is paid for, there are still consequences that occur (relational, emotional, physical, and LEGAL)

Believers confuse consequences with the penalty

There is no penalty for sin. There are plenty of consequences.

However, I would much rather experience consequences of my sin filtered through the hand of a merciful God rather than in conjunction with the full penalty of sin.

Even in consequences, we rarely get everything we justly deserve.

For the matter, even the consequences we do experience quite often become conduits of God's grace in our lives

Chris Ryan said...


As much as it hurts us, we do ourselves, the perpetrator, and the world at large a greater disservice by by obstructing the criminal civil process than we do by allowing the perpetrator a pass in the name of grace.

Grace is never something that we deserve. That is what makes it grace. And my prayers are always that others may receive grace enough. But as Rodney pointed out, that does not absolve anyone of the consequences of their action. We can minister to the perpetrator. But to "love justice (Amos)" demands we act as much for, if not more so, the victims. We sill "plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1)." Inbetween victim and perpetrator, square in the middle, is a hard place to be (as are most middle roads). But I think you are right that that is the only Biblical option.

Paul Burleson said...


You were with me when we had to deal with one such case I remember.

Those were tough but grace filled days weren't they!!


I really believe with you that the penalty of sin is taken care of past, present and future. Our actions do still bear a harvest since whatever is sown is reaped is a principle of life for all of us as you and I both see in scripture.

When actions are of an illegal nature however, the courts ARE to exact punishment as that 1 Peter 2 passage declares in order to protect the innocent. That has nothing to do obviously with it being sin. God deals with all that in His way and in His time. It's just societal laws that apply to us all. That's my thinking anyway.

Paul Burleson said...


I wrote a moment ago without having read your comment. All of you guys, as usual, are right on target as far as this old preacher is concerned.

I've read blogs far and wide and have concluded that the wisest, clearest thinking, level headed, and most scripturally minded people that can be found anywhere comment on my blog. LOL

Paul Burleson said...


One illustation. No details just short declarative sentences to help show the process that was used.

A child accused a teenager of sexual abuse. Both families in the church I pastored. Teen denied it. Eight year old said it happened.

I was called. I visited with both families. [Took a staff member with me.] Both sides maintained their stories.

The law in Oklahoma is that any responsible person knowing of an ACCUSATION of improper sexual conduct with a child is to report it to the authorities. I told the families that.

I told both child and teen I loved them and I did not DISBELIEVE either but it now was a criminal matter and I used 1 Peter 2 to show them.

I had already stated to both families that the teen was NOT to be alone with young children under any circumstance until the matter was concluded and neither family was to speak to anyone else about it until such time as the authorities were finished with whatever they needed to do.

I called the Department of Human Services [both sets of parents present with another staff member] and explained the situation WITHOUT the naming of names. I then told them what I had done about the families. I told the DHS I would do whatever the law required.

The person I was speaking with said she would need to speak to her supervisor and she would call back in a few minutes. We waited. She called. The supervisor said the purpose of the law was to bring to light any events that were illegal and potentially damaging in the future if not confronted.

That supervisor [a woman also] then said we had done what was necessary since it was a "he said she said" situation and the alleged event was innappropriate touching which NEEDED to be brought to light to keep such from happening again as well as to punish the doer. Her judgment was that all that had been accomplished. There was a caveat that the young teen was NOT TO babysit ever or work with small children ever while at a church activity.

I asked the DHS if they needed the names of those involved. After some hesitation they said no. But the families were to right there agree to all that had been required including the remaining silent about it. Both agreed.

Both families stayed in the fellowship. Both parties were consistent in abiding by the stipulations.

I, then, led each family separately in a time of repentence, forgiveness, and commitment to love all those involved while abiding by the required stipulations.

To this day I don't know what truly happened in the alleged event but THAT situation worked out.

Remember, I didn't know what I was doing half the time but believed both the spiritual AND cultural [laws] principles of life had to be exercised to the best of our ability.

I would do the same thing again with ANY accusation of a criminal nature and realize the results COULD BE far different. But I believe I would have been faithful to the scripture and loving to people. When all is said and done that's all I know to do.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

If a believer commits a crime...is that not just as wrong legally as it is spiritually? :)

Grace does not absolve us from all consequences of our actions(whether they be sinful or criminal)

Grace does not excuse our inaction when we know crimes are being committed. Because we are called/commanded to speak up/defend those with no voice, those who are being victimized and those who have been wronged

So if I know, firsthand, a crime is being (or about to be) committed against someone it is my Christian duty to do what I can to make it stop.

Maybe that is a phone call to the authorities... or my testimony in court...or a vote of conscious...and on rare occasions...a right hook! :)

Anything less is not just criminal..it is sin

God does handle all things in his time and "the courts" are part of that process. But then again...so are His people.

Aussie John said...


I am in total agreement with your response to my comment and the ensuing ones.

My concern is that, at least three times that I am aware of,a case has gone to court, a conviction awarded, and sentencing took place. The sentences of two were jail.

Most of the very convincing evidence was given by church people, and later found to be false. The convictions were removed, two men released (different cases at different times),but in each case lives had been traumatized and changed irreversibility.

I have had to deal with several situations which were similar, when church people have made accusations against fellow members( motivations were usually in retaliation for some supposed personal slight, usually here-say), which on close examination proved to be false.

My concern is that churches need to go to the courts after a long process of examination, and NEED TO DO SO when the situation warrants such action.

You said, "Accusations or even being charged with a crime are not the same as a legal conviction of a crime." I want to respectfully disagree: in the minds of many people they are one and the same, as the damaged lives are never again the same, as I and mine know full well.

The knowledge that we ourselves, and everyone who makes accusations, are still sinners means that the greatest care possible must be taken when dealing with precious lives.

Paul Burleson said...


I don't know what anyone else will think about what you've said...but...ever statement is part of the fiber of my being. I so hold to the veracity of each statement that it's like my blood, part and parcel to my life

Paul Burleson said...


Aussie John has made a statement here that cannot be questioned as to it's correctness..."You said, [speaking of Paul Burleson] 'Accusations or even being charged with a crime are not the same as a legal conviction of a crime.' I want to respectfully disagree: in the minds of many people they are one and the same, as the damaged lives are never again the same, as I and mine know full well."

While I was speaking the a view of the law..[innocent until proven guilty]...nevertheless he has correctly spoken, unfortunately, of the heart of people as they view things. This makes it double diffiult and not so cut and dried.

Can anyone speak to the carefulness of handling accusations. I will later but do not want to dominate the conversation here.

Great point Aussie John. It ties in with your original point that has not yet been addressed properly in my opinion.

Chris Ryan said...

Aussie John,

I agree that while we can distinguish between an accusation and the actual perpetration of a crime (or at least we can in theory), there are many who assume that "the police would never arrest the wrong guy." The countless stories of them having done so (on both sides of the Pacific) are simply ignored. But I chafe at your suggestion that we only report to authorities after an extensive internal investigation. Or at least that we do so in every occasion.

At least in the state of MO (and I think in all of the US, clergy are mandated reporters), if I have any reasonable suspicion that sexual abuse (or abuse of any kind) is occuring, as a pastor I am legally obligated to report it. If I see a woman mishandling her kid in the grocery store. If someone gives me the names of an alleged perpetrator and alleged victim. If nobody tells me anything but the signs all point to it being the case. If I could at all say, "I had reason to believe that was the case," and I don't report it then I can be charged as an accessory to the crime. Personally, I am not risking my reputation or calling by not not reporting to the civil authorities. There may be situations which I would try to ascertain "in house" before going to the "outsiders," but there are others that my civil responsibility is clear.

Or what of situations where others may continue to be harmed while the investigation takes place? If new people are losing money daily because of fraud (as was the case on Wade's blog post)? The potential for further harm to the unsuspecting seems to outweigh my desire to study the issue carefully myself. There is the prosocutorial time lost to my investigation. More time lost as the police conduct their investigation. In a short time, hundreds or thousands can become victims of a crime that would otherwise have been spared if I had let the civil authorities handle the *one* reponsibility afforded them in Romans 13: to discover and punish civic wrong-doing.

There may be times where I would investigate the matter thoroughly first. But I almost think those would be the exception rather than the norm. I don't want to assume the guilt of the other party. But I don't want to increase the risk of them incurring more guilt because my hands did not move swift enough.

And if someone is breaking a law that deserves to be broken? Notice that Daniel was willing to walk into the Lions den. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo (whose names I probably grossly misspelled) were ready to walk into the fiery furnace. Martin Luther King, Jr. spent numerous times in jail. The law may be being broken, but if we are ready to break the law (even, and perhaps especially, if it is unjust) we must also be prepared to accept the civic consequences. Not ask to be hidden from them. Thereby we do the other side of Romans 13: submit in good conscience to the unjust punishments of state when their law is not the law of God.

Just my thoughts.

Rodney Sprayberry said...

Aussie John,

I am in agreement with Chris. But, I also understand your concern.

While in Virginia, I had the privilege of overseeing a counseling ministry with three full-time licensed counselors. So I saw quite a bit of the fallout that can occur

The reality of the matter is this, when you are dealing with sexual misconduct or abuse, just the accusation is enough to destroy people. In most cases, Christian leaders (and fathers) are presumed guilty until proven innocent...

For that matter I have seen families almost destroyed because a child/teenager knew that all they needed to do was make an accusation of physical/emotional/sexual abuse...

However, though the fallout from false accusations is bad...the fallout from unheeded accusations (that are true) is worse.

This is precisely because they often occur in the context of families and churches.

And comparatively, false accusations are a small percentage in relationship to actual abusive/illegal behavior

The greater percentage are the one that silently being victimized

If a false accusation is made good(and hopefully Godly) counselors, laywers, doctors, investigators, and a strong support system of family/friend are not bad resources!

But sometimes all we have is the truth, and the ONE who is our mediator, counselor, great physician, and all knowing Sovereign to help us find meaning in the "light and momentary afflictions" we may have to face (see 2 Cor 4:18 in light of 2 Cor 11: 23-31 and 2 Cor 12: 7-10)

Aussie John said...


Chris: I have discovered that "reason to believe" is definitely not sufficient reason to go to the law of the land over anything. There needs to be, at least, some certainty.

"Reason to believe" is quite often the figment of over active imaginations, for which many have suffered life-time harm.

I, personally, would not want it on my conscience that a family suffered what my friends family suffered, because of "reason to believe". He left a note when he committed suicide indicating that such action was the only way he could stop the harm to his family and congregation.

"Reason to believe" is the basis for gossip.

Over the last fifty years, I have seen far too much of the fallibility of the mind and the fallout from the imagination of "Christians" some with definite agendas)for me to go down that road. I must have substantial proof.

Rodney, I have seen families destroyed, not "almost destroyed". I have seen two fathers incarcerated on the evidence of a spiteful daughter, because their father wouldn't bow to their demands. Thankfully they were later shown to be free of guilt. They never recovered from the trauma and shame of being dragged through the public arena.

I think I'm no different to any other serious follower of Christ, regarding the overwhelming sense of outrage I experience when atrocities occur, but I have to reign in much of this emotion which is as sinful as the act reported.

By the way, I will NEVER, NEVER listen to an accusation unless the accused is present to hear what is said.

Paul Burleson said...

Great conversation all. I have returned and am late in joining but wish to say a personal word about what is being said.

First, This statement by Aussie John.."By the way, I will NEVER, NEVER listen to an accusation unless the accused is present to hear what is said"..is something I have attempted to live by and is the reason I called BOTH sets of parents together in the situation I wrote about earlier.

That said, there could possibly be situations where I might HAVE to report a crime BEFORE I do that but when it is a matter between Christians.. I'm not sure there IS an exception to that principle for me.

I did not read Chris's statement "reason to believe" to necessarily mean no substantiation has been attempted. I would, again, say that when dealing with Christians Matthew 18 does come into play to some degree and must never be totally forgotten and upon being followed at a certain point might lead me to say "I have reason to believe" when moving to the next step whatever that step might be in a particular situation.

But whether substantiation HAS been totally made or not there are certain sexual crimes that I have to report by Oklahoma law even if I have not substantiated the FACT of the crime. The charge is sufficient to require me to report it. But, again, such a charge, if involving church members or Christians, I would never do it with out the accused having been brought in on it.

Third, and here I may be extremely naive even at my age, but I'm not sure but that when a spirit of love, acceptance and forgiveness is present throughout the whole process FOR BOTH PARTIES [accuser and accused] that the outcome will be better for ALL concerned NO MATTER the outcome.

In fact, when the spirit of love, acceptance and forgiveness IS NOT present through the whole process the main ingredient may be missing no matter how correctly the STATUTES of the land are followed.

Fourth, I think it is the failure of the leadership of the Church in modeling that spirit that is being passed on to the body that may be our major problem for Christians.

I know we all can feel a small part [never the full of it for a hearer] of the specific pain and loss Aussie has expressed as he has honestly shared his journey.

His journey will cause me to remember the tragedy that can be experienced when a right and true spirit of love is not expressed AT EVERY JUNCTURE and for EVERY PERSON in a difficult possible criminal situation that may or may not true in fact.

These are tough calls for tough situations and our conversation can do nothing but help in the spirit we are communicating. Thanks to all of you for that spirit.

Chris Ryan said...

Aussie John,

It may be insufficient reason for you. But it is reason enough for me. Perhaps it is my experience as a sexual abuse victim. Perhaps it is the fact that I have had as many friends who were victims of one sort of abuse or another as I have had those who were able to escape such depravities. Perhaps it is because I have seen the devestation to those who reported and their reports weren't "credible" or "important" enough to be passed on to the police (one sexually abused friend was actually told by a pastor, "Well, what do you expect? You're just God's little whore now.").

I guess we are both operating off of seeing and experiencing the opposite ends of the spectrum. But especially when it comes to the areas of abuse, if I have a legitimate reason to suspect a crime then I'll report and leave it to defense lawyers and juries to demand proof beyond reasonable doubt. If I'm on the jury, that is what I will ask for, too. But not before then.

Aussie John said...


Our laws are different in that every citizen has that responsibility you speak of under the laws of your state, and not only regarding sexual crime. The consequences are serious if they have not done so.

Brother Chris! Thank you and Rodney for honoring me with a response. May I, with sincere empathy say, I know full well where you have been,I've been there, severe physical abuse as well. That experience makes me much more cautious of accusations.


On the other hand, I am also very conscious that EVERY human being reflects their Adamic heritage to some degree or another, you and I included. I may be accused of being a cynic here; but, I know only too well that there are as many liars, and creatively imaginative folk within Christendom (sadly in leadership as well) as there are amongst unbelievers, including the judiciary.

Paul's words are key to helping a very difficult situation, "In fact, when the spirit of love, acceptance and forgiveness IS NOT present through the whole process the main ingredient may be missing no matter how correctly the STATUTES of the land are followed."

Sadly, many of the motives I have come across have been opportunistic, vengeful, or even through vain personal pique with no vestige of what Paul refers to.

Solomon was absolutely spot on regarding the real treasure of wisdom. I need more and more!

Aussie John said...


Personally knowing the utter helplessness my friend felt,before his suicide, is also a great motivation to be careful of inflicting the same on another.

When sexual penetration is not the issue, how does one PROVE innocence?

I never once was moved to suicide, thanks to the support of my wife and family, but the selfish thought was constantly there,"The only escape from the pain and stigma is to die!"

Aussie John said...


Doing a bit of research leads me to believe that almost across the board, USA law holds to what is known as the "Blackstone ratio."

Apparently the English jurist William Blackstone made the following statement, "Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer", hence the ratio.

I haven't given the matter much thought, so am not agreeing or disagreeing. So, please, don't shoot! :)

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

Blackstone's philosophy of law is basic to our jurisprudence system but I'm not sure we always live up to it's high ideals. Sometimes fear of personal safety trumps everything unfortunately.