Joe Paterno & Romans 6:23

The sports world is ablaze with discussions about the scandal at Penn State and the subsequent firing of long-term and esteemed coach Joe Paterno.  Much of the debate regarding Paterno centers on consequences.  What are the appropriate consequences for Paterno's apparent lack of response and follow-through in this horrific scandal?  What is the apposite penalty for remaining uninvolved in such atrocious and inappropriate activity?

Appropriate or inappropriate consequences can be extremely subjective.  What I have learned through personal experience is that everyone has an opinion on what the appropriate consequences should be for certain behaviors or sins. If you did __________, then you should face __________. This sin should result in these consequences. And if you do not face the consequences of choice, then people feel that you somehow escaped or got away with it. The difficulty in this scenario is that everyone's consequence of choice differs because everyone has an opinion on what is appropriate and inappropriate, enough or not enough, sufficient or insufficient.

Here's what the Bible says about sin's consequences: The wages (consequences) of sin is death (Rom 6:23).  In other words, what we "deserve" for our sin is death.  Death is the natural result of sin. When we sin, death is the by-product.  Sin kills. Sin destroys.

When we sin, relationships are destroyed. When we sin, trust dies. When we sin, integrity is killed. When we sin, peace is eradicated.  Sin often annihilates hope and faith and love. Sin kills everything sacred and pure and right. Sin leaves devastation, ruin, and destruction in its path. Bottom line: sin kills.  And when we sin, the consequences of our sin is death.

Enter the gospel.

What Romans 3:23 goes on to assert is that the consequences of our sin is death, BUT God's undeserved gift of grace provided through Jesus is life - and not just any life but eternal life (think quality here and not just quantity). In other words, Jesus came to exchange life for death.  Jesus came to take away sin's consequences and replace our deserved death penalty with eternal life. Jesus came to overthrow the harshest penalty of sin: death itself.  He died so that we might live.

Sin has consequences. I live with the consequences of my sin every day of my life. I am constantly reminded of the consequences of my actions. I am constantly told by others what my consequences should or should not be. That's simply the reality of sin and the reality of people - sin has consequences and people have opinions.  And yet the gospel is bigger than both of those realities.  What Jesus accomplished on the cross is bigger than the consequences of sin.  And the gospel is bigger than what others believe, think, or say about us.

Jesus came to provide life. He came to overthrow sin's most severe consequences. He came to set us free from the eternal consequences of our sin. And that is good news.

Like everyone, I have an opinion on the Joe Paterno situation.  I personally believe that if he willingly neglected to report to the appropriate authorities the shocking and sickening activity that took place under his watch, then the Penn State powers that be made the right decision to fire him.  His choice to keep quiet has consequences.  And the sin committed against those young boys destroyed things inside of them that few will ever experience.  That's what sin does - it destroys.

And yet amidst this tragedy, we are reminded of the beauty of the gospel. However ugly our sin is and no matter what human consequences we are left to face because of our sin, Jesus came to answer the sin problem. He came to give life to those who are dead in their sins.

I think it is sad that Joe Paterno's illustrious career will end in such a tragic manner. And yet, the death of his career is the result of his sin (sin of omission in this case).  But guess what? My sin has caused death as well. I have faced natural consequences for my choices as well. I deserve sin's penalty just like Joe Paterno, the administrators who remained quiet, and yes even the pedophile who raped the innocence of those young boys.  Because we are all sinners, we all deserve to face sin's death sentence.  And that's what makes the gospel so incredible. He exchanges what we don't deserve (eternal life) for what we deserve (death).

Paul's simple explanation of the gospel in Romans 6:23 reminds us of both of these truths: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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