The Sweet Gospel of Christ

Rachael Denhollander has received a great deal of well-deserved recognition and praise for her victim impact statement at Larry Nassar’s trial.

According to the article by The Washington Post, Denhollander was the first to bring charges against Nassar for sexual abuse he committed against over 200 women and girls when he served as USA Gymnastics team doctor and as sports physician at Michigan State University. She first brought her charges in August, 2016, so the fact that Nassar has been tried and convicted already is testimony to how quickly the justice system worked this case. It wasn’t always so, however, because so many of the women and girls who complained about Nassar were ignored by those at USA Gymnastics, at MSU, and by the police. Denhollander, herself, testified to the price she pain for bringing charges against the popular, charismatic, and award-winning physician, including losing friendships and even her church.

But anger and vengeance were not the themes of Denhollander’s victims impact statement. Instead, she focused on forgiveness, though not a forgiveness that comes cheaply, but one that comes in God’s response to true repentance.

Denhollander referenced the Bible that Nassar brought with him to his trial:

The Bible you speak of carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and his eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing.

And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet, because it extends grace, and hope, and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so that you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well.

Denhollander’s words are poignant and her willingness to extend forgiveness to Nassar a witness to Christian virtue. Denhollander is a devout Christian and a pro-life advocate.

But, we should each remember that the truth Denhollander’s speaks is not only for men like Nassar. It is for all of us. The wrath of God will be poured out on all of us for, really, we are all of us “men like Nassar” in that we have turned from God and given ourselves over to sin. Quoting Psalms 14 and 53, St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans:

“There is no one just, not one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have gone astray; all alike are worthless; there is not one who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

But, as Denhollander notes, God does not leave us in our sins. St. Paul again:

“All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as an expiation, through faith, by his blood, to prove his righteousness because of the forgiveness of sins previously committed, through the forbearance of God — to prove his righteousness in the present time, that he might be righteous and justify the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26).

Denhollander’s victims impact statement, her forgiving Nassar and her faith that God can forgive Nassar through Christ if he truly repents, is a testament to her own faith in Christ and her confidence in the power of God’s grace. We must remember and rejoice that the sweet Gospel of Christ that extends grace, and hope, and mercy where none should be found is a promise extended to all of us.

Lent is coming up. The challenge of Ash Wednesday, and all of Lent, is to “Repent, and follow the gospel!” (Mark 1:15). May Denhollander’s words and example, and that of St. Paul, whose own sins against Christ are well documented, remind us to take up that challenge each day of Lent and each day of our lives.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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