An incredible thing happened during one of the sentencing hearings for the Larry Nassar sexual assault cases. One of the fathers of victims asked the judge if he could have five minutes in a room alone with Nassar. We can leave his intentions to our imagination. When the judge denied his request, the father asked for just one minute. Again, the judge denied his request, he mumbled something under his breath and leaped towards Nassar right there in the courtroom. Every police officer in the room scrambled to prevent the father from contact with the perpetrator. While the officers had the father on the floor, you can see two of them gently pat his back and whisper what had to be calming words. The compassion they showed as they handcuffed the father and led him out of the courtroom was commendable.
It’s a powerful scene to watch. I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of humans applaud the father, we can at least understand why he did what he did. Because of the deep love we have for our children, not one of us can say for sure how we’d handle our child being mistreated by someone who is supposed to be caring for them (Larry Nassar was their team doctor). Within minutes of the report, people took to social media to vindicate the father and tell him that they understand. In fact, a Go-Fund Me account was quickly set up for the father, collecting funds to pay any bail or legal fees he may incur as a result of his actions.
But here’s the phenomenal part of the story…after a lunch break, the father came back into the courtroom and apologized to everyone for his behavior, admitting that he was embarrassed and should not have tried to attack anyone. Again, the majority of us do not agree that the father needed to apologize, it was Nassar that needed to apologize to the victims and their families. Yet, by taking responsibility, this father stands as an example to us all. Violence was not the answer; it never is. Sure, it may feel satisfying, to hurt someone who has done horrible things, but what would that really prove? It certainly wouldn’t fix what happened, nor would it prevent anyone else from ever committing sexual assault. Think about it…we have executed a lot of individuals for horrendous crimes, but those crimes haven’t stopped happening. Actually, we have a crisis of over-crowded prisons. Had the victim’s father been able to reach Nassar, a lot of people would have cheered, but not one victim would have been freed from her oppression. And that was the father’s point in a news briefing later the same day. This hearing to seek justice wasn’t about him, it was about the hundreds of girls that Nassar violated. Imagine that… if we take our own emotions out of the equation and focus solely on the needs of the oppressed, we help lift the broken and ease the burden of injustice. That’s what I believe God both intends, and affords this world.
Mark’s gospel focuses on the healing aspect of Jesus’ ministry. As the story of Jesus begins, he calls disciples to follow him. The very first thing Jesus does once people have left everything behind to follow his journey is to teach in the temple and begin to heal people. He heals a man with an unclean spirit while he is in the synagogue teaching. And afterwards, he goes to a follower’s home and heals the mother. What we learn about Jesus in the gospel of Mark is that his teaching and his healing go hand-in-hand; we don’t have one without the other. Jesus teaches that he might heal, and he heals that he might teach. That means if there is anything we gain from the teaching of Christ, it is for the healing of the world. Likewise, if we experience healing in our lives, it bears the teaching of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, our priority needs to be reconciliation between humanity and its creator.
I’m inspired by the father in the sexual assault story. Not because he tried to do what I would like to see happen to Larry Nassar, but because he said, “that’s not the way.” By saying this, he turned our attention back to the victims and their needs, and the healing process can begin. It would do the world good if we follow this father’s example.