“You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others,” calmly and deliberately spoke Rachael Denhollander as she addressed former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar in court yesterday.
Denhollander, the former Gymnast, was 15 years old when was she sexually abused by Nassar, the former Michigan State University sports medicine doctor. She was the first of over 160 women to speak out and the final one to address Nassar in court yesterday with a riveting and powerful statement.
She recounted Nassar’s pleasure in grooming his victims, his lack of remorse, and how he experienced “sexual satisfaction” in (their) suffering.”
She then addressed the disgraced doctor directly and said, “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 sins he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.”
“But Larry,” Denhollander continued “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.”
Denhollander spoke of evil contrasted by goodness and the justice of God and appealed to Nassar to recognize the depravity of his sin, repent and turn to Jesus Christ, “The Bible you speak carries 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.”
If you’ve been following the trial of this shameful, sickening, and sordid story, Rachael Denhollander’s testimony shines as a powerful witness to the gospel message.
Some sins seem worse than others. Both in their consequences and when they affect children. But the fact is that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:23). And, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I Jn. 1:8).
The Gospel story is one of God’s immeasurable love, amazing grace, and benevolent mercy. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians speaks of those who were “dead in trespasses and sin.” He says they behaved according to the lusts of their flesh, and gratified their sinful cravings (Eph. 2:1-3).
Then something marvelous happened. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”
Rachael Denhollander is right. God can forgive Larry Nassar. Even as despicable and deplorable as his deeds were. Sincere sorrow for sin, genuine repentance, and acceptance of and obedience to the gospel message can employ God’s grace and mercy.
There’s a classic hymn that repeats the refrain, “There is power in the blood. Wonder working power in the blood of the lamb.” Thank God for the gift of Jesus and his death on the cross to save sinners. Sinners like me. And you.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman