The Grace of Scandal


290432552This week has been a big one for scandal. Whether it’s been inside the Church, inside the Beltway, or inside a Philadelphia courtroom, it seems like our collective dirty laundry has finally spilled out of the hamper and onto the floor. And while I don’t delight in scandal, I realized this week--after being bombarded by it on every side--that scandal offers a strange kind of comfort. Perhaps it’s not the scandal itself, but that the revelation of scandal stands testimony to a God Who is faithful to His promises.

When you’ve suffered because of another person’s sin, one of hardest parts is the helplessness that comes when no one else knows or even seems to care about it. In this place, it’s easy to begin to believe that God doesn’t either. You begin to doubt, you begin to fear, you begin to worry that the truth will never be revealed. You reconcile yourself to the fact that justice will never be done—you question whether it even exists at all.

But it does. And that is never clearer than when a scandal finally breaks.

When a scandal breaks—when painful truths finally come to light—we are watching God fulfill His promise that “nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” We are watching Him actively “bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and disclose the purposes of the heart.” We are watching Him prove that day and night are alike to him and that He sees the pain of His children and will vindicate them.

In this sense, scandal is grace. Scandal is grace because it restores our hope in God’s justice. Sin will be found out no matter how expertly we cover it or pretend that it doesn’t exist. But scandal is also grace because it reminds us of our own need to confess—of our own need to submit to this same justice. Because if we don’t voluntarily confess our sin today, it promises to be a scandal tomorrow.

You see, scandal only happens when we refuse to repent. But when we do—when we willingly uncover the hidden secrets of our heart--the only scandal left is the scandal of His mercy. The scandal of a mercy that remembers that these now confessed sins have been already been atoned for. The scandal of a justice that refuses to punish us twice. The scandal of a God who says: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy."

And so when we confess our sin to Him and those we’ve wronged, He covers them. He does not minimize them and He does not always remove the consequences, but one thing He does not do is flaunt them. He does not hold a press conference to shame or humiliate us in the midst of them. He does not make a scandal of them.

So when the Gosnell verdict was finally announced this week, I found myself unexpectedly crying—not tears of relief so much as tears of thankfulness. Thankfulness for a God Who promises to reveal the hidden things. Thankfulness for a God who sees every time a child suffers, every time a government abuses its power, every time I convince myself that my own sin can be covered. I cried tears of thankfulness for a God who loves us too much to allow darkness to continue and Who joyfully receives us with open arms when we finally come running out of it.