With more Facebook inspiration from my previous post Rolf Harris is a Dirty Word, I have come to some new conclusions about why we must harden our resolve in rejecting Rolf’s works, at least for the time being.
We all know the phrase – hate the sin but love the sinner. Christians might be surprised to know that this is not a Bible passage at all but something that Ghandi is known for saying. The Bible does actually say something of this sort in
Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
However the less religious version is the oft repeated one.
Hate the sin but love the sinner carries with it the belief that all sin is equal. That lying to your mother is equal to the sexual molestation of a minor. That murder is the same as stealing a loaf of bread. That abortion is the same as sex before marriage. That being a sociopath is the same as acting in anger or yelling at our children. Somehow we like to think that if the grievousness of a sin could be measured, God would deem them all the same. Perhaps it is just my humanness coming through, but I don’t believe this for one minute. Yes it is true that God died for all sinners, and for all their sins, but the next step is always this – that we accept that love, that we accept our sins and their consequences, and turn to God for help to overcome that sin. Due to the nature of some sins, this can be practically impossible.
Harris’s sexual crimes against young people is one example of such a sin. His molestation of at least 12 minors, and sexual penetration of a trusted family friend were not just one off incidents, but a pattern of behaviour. Having had many opportunities to reflect upon his behaviour, he must have deemed them acceptable enough to repeat them. Not only this, but decades later on the witness stand to have the resolve to deny they even happened, and to label his accusers as liars. Victims of abuse are often quoted as saying that the first step towards forgiveness of their abusers is when they admit they have done something wrong. How can we expect a victim to feel free from their abuse if the perpetrator continues to deny it even happened? Harris’ denial must be particularly stinging due to the public nature of the trail and Harris’ public profile.
God too requires us to acknowledge our sins, big and small. For how can we accept that we need God’s help if we believe ourselves to be sin-free? The nature of some sins makes acknowledging them much harder than others. For instance, it is much easier to acknowledge that the lie we told our friend was damaging to the friendship than it is to acknowledge that we have ruined a person’s life due to our sin. But God requires us to take this step for each and every sin. In the meantime, the distance between God and ourselves grows. Similarly in our human relationships, the distance between us and the sinner grows until the sinner acknowledges the wrong they have done. Yes, we can continue to love the person, but love does not mean pandering to them. Love is challenging. We like to skip over certain words in our favourite love passage
1 Corinthians 13:4-6 – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
There are a few things in there that we need to point out. The first is that love is not “easily” angered. It does not mean it never gets angry. It just saves its anger for those moments that are justified, like for instance, when a trusted member of society sexually molests a number of young victims.
The second part to remember is that “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”. We must not delight in the works of Harris due to the access it gave him to his young victims. Simply put, we must not continue to revere the works of a man who continues to abuse and damage his victims by denying the occurrence of the abuse. The truth for those victims is that their lives were irrevocably changed by the abuse, and it is that which we must consider, and not the man himself. We must rejoice in their lives, build them up and support them as the heal from the damage caused by the abuse. The best way we can do this is to stop the revelry associated with his works.
God requires of us certain steps in order for our sins to be cleansed. It is the same for all sins, the big and the small sins.
The first step is to acknowledge that we have sinned.
The second is to acknowledge that our sins has caused trouble to other people and to God.
The third is to turn to God or our victims for forgiveness.
Lastly, we must continue to turn to God for help to overcome the presence of that sin in our lives.
If Harris had been able to do this, with or without the acknowledgement of God in the process, he might have had some more sympathy from his fellow Australians. Until he is able to take this steps, we must harden our resolve and distance ourselves from him and his actions. Pray for him, but do not glorify him. Love him as a human being, but do not dismiss the crimes he has committed. Do not give him fuel to continue his denial.