Published February 6, 2018

Paul's Epistle
"How Bold?"

How bold are you? Specifically, how bold are you in speaking God's truth to others? And how bold would you be in doing that under very difficult, very self-sacrificial and very public circumstances?

The world watched recently as a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar, was sentenced in a Lansing, Michigan, courtroom to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing young women who had been entrusted to his medical care. The court forced Nassar to sit and listen as at least 156 of these young women testified – looking Nassar directly in the face – about what he had done to them. (At least a hundred additional women have also accused Nassar.)

One of these women – the one whose initial accusations started the investigation a year-and-a-half ago and thereby opened the investigative floodgates – was former teenaged gymnast Rachael Denhollander. Now a married mother of three, Denhollander went beyond describing Nassar's crimes against her. In court, as the world watched, she boldly pointed out the spiritual dimension.

Denhollander called Nassar's crimes what they were – sin. Read her own words as she addressed Nassar in court:

"In our early hearings, you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God Himself loving so sacrificially that He gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin He did not commit. By His grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But, Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen in this courtroom today. ...

"The Bible [speaks of] a final judgment where all of God's wrath and 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 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."

These are amazingly bold words from this young lady who knew that, not just Nassar, but the world would be watching and listening.

Would you be so bold? Denhollander was under no obligation to go beyond simply testifying as to what had happened to her. But she used the opportunity to offer her personal forgiveness – and to encourage her assailant to seek God's forgiveness. Who knows how many other people who were watching and listening – or, indeed, who saw news accounts of this testimony – and have been impacted by the Gospel as so clearly articulated by this bold young woman?

In times when many Christians around the world are being tortured or beheaded or even burned alive simply for taking a stand for Christ, can we, with good conscience, do anything less than to stand boldly for Christ?

In Acts 4:29, Peter and John prayed, "...grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word..." That's our prayer, too — to speak the Gospel boldly whenever the Lord provides the opportunity. (We should pray, too, instantly to be able to recognize those opportunities when they do come.)

Do you care enough about the Gospel to be so bold?  Do I?  Or do we shy away saying, "That's the preacher's job," or, "Let someone else do it," or, "I'm just too shy to do it," or, "Someone might take offense," or even, "I'd just humiliate myself." Will we risk going outside of our "comfort zone" to stand for Christ?

Remember, as Denhollander — who had suffered greatly, both physically and emotionally — told an interviewer, "Obedience [to Christ] costs..." But, "If you're not speaking out when it costs, then it doesn't matter to us enough."2

- Paul Heil

1 From CNN transcript, accessed February 3, 2018.
2. Quoted in Christianity Today, interview dated January 31, 2018.

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