This is probably the 4th or 5th revision of this post over the last few days.
Truthfully, I didn't know if posting something did more harm than good. But, after seeking out some wisdom and yet another conversation today, it seems like saying something is a better option than saying nothing at all.
Most of you know by the title of this post what is prompting it. One of our members and volunteers, Dan Ankrum, was charged with sexual exploitation by a school employee. It is alleged that he had an inappropriate relationship with an East High student.
That's what we know. What many of us are struggling with now is this:
How do we respond?
I've watched how many have responded. I've watched people rush to condemnation and judgment - even spreading misinformation about this case, as though Dan has already admitted guilt. I've watched as people have villified a stranger for something yet to be proven.
I've watched as people have called into question this girl's integrity and character. Apparently, she's either lying, or she's scorned, or she's made up a world for herself that doesn't exist like some lovestruck teenager might be prone to do.
I've watched as people have rushed into defend Dan, saying that there's no way that the guy they knew could have ever done something like this. I've watched as people have rushed to defend this girl, calling her a victim for whom justice must be done.
I've watched as people have rushed to confirm the truth of these allegations, saying they saw it coming from a long, long ways off, pointing to things they observed themselves, or examples from other similar cases.
And I think each of those responses falls short of how we ought to respond - of how God would desire us to respond.
In some instances, I think those responses are downright sinful.
I was talking to a friend today. We were actually finishing up a brief conversation, until she interjected: "Hey, can I ask you something?"
She then shared a struggle that many of us who know Dan are struggling with ourselves:
How are we to think about this? How should we respond?
I loved the way she phrased it: "I don't know how to even think about this." I think that's a great way to start.
I think it's great because it meant that she wasn't rushing to anything. She didn't rush to defend or condemn. She didn't rush to speculate or to judge. She just wrestled.
She wrestled because she knew what it was like to be that girl - to really be that girl - the girl who has been sexually abused, the girl who has been taken advantage of, the girl who no one would believe.
But she also wrestled because she knew what it was like to be villified, to be condemned, to be rejected and labeled, and to be someone who no one would believe.
She was wrestling, because she was identifying with both people on both sides.
If you think about it, this is exactly who Jesus was and what Jesus did. He wrestled before all of us, becuase he was identifying with both sides - with both God and us.
Jesus, member of the eternal, Triune God, takes on flesh. In the flesh, he identified with God - revealing to us who God was, what God was like, and what it was like to be in relationship with Him. And in the flesh, he identified with us - he knew what it was like to be frail like us, to be in pain like us, to be condemned like us, to live like us, and to die like us.
Never did he pit one against the other. Never did he elevate one over the other. He identifies perfectly with both. This divinely human union, fully God, fully human, for all to see.
Jesus could just as easily identify with the prostitute as he could with the prophet. He could identify just as easily with the sinner as he could the saint. Wherever he went, in whichever circle he ran with, he became like them so as to reveal who God was to them.
I think there's something to that for us. I think there's a model there that we ought to follow.
Who do you identify with in Dan's case? Most likely, you've got one side or the other, one perspective or the other, one person or the other that you most quickly and most easily identify with. And you probably have got a million reasons justifying why your side, or your perspective, or your person is the one you ought to be identifying with.
I want to challenge you, though. Whoever it is, whichever side, whichever perspective - the Jesus thing to do is to be able to identify with the other side as well. To see it through their eyes. To be like them in order to see and reveal God to them.
If you're quick to identify with this girl, can you see what it's like to be accused and villified, condemned before any evidence is presented in your defense?
If you're quick to identify with Dan, can you see what it's like to be the victim of sexual abuse, alone and confused, scared to even admit what has happened to you, wondering if it's not at least partially your fault?
If you can, you'll have a better chance of seeing what God is already up to, and aligning your mind, heart, speech, and actions accordingly.
If you can't, you'll probably be yet another obstacle in the way of what God wants to do.
If Dan's the vilian from your perspective - if he's the enemy - then you ought to love him, forgive him, and pray for him. That's what it's like to identify with him like Jesus would.
If this girl is the villan from your perspective - if she's the enemy - then it's your job to protect her reputation and seek to understand her and advocate for her. That's what it's like to identify with her like Jesus would.
It's entirely consistent to affirm the police's and court's job to seek justice while we also care for Dan.
It's entirely consistent to seek to protect the reputation of this girl while we seek to protect Dan's reputation.
It's entirely consistent to pray for the health and healing of this girl while we pray the same for Dan.
It's entirely consistent, because it's entirely consistent with who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Jesus, the God-Man, paying for injustice by offering mercy - both wrapped up in the single, beautiful act of the cross.
So go love your enemy today - whoever you think it might be.