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16 February 2018

A different kind of scandal

A different kind of scandal

Flavio Guaratto is Speak Up coordinator at the Evangelical Alliance.

Those watching or reading the news lately will be more than familiar with the avalanche of sexual misconduct cases in the world of politics, showbiz, sports, religion and now in the charity and humanitarian sectors. The news this week of exploitation by some staff at Oxfam is just the latest example and will certainly not be the last. 

Survivors of abuse have gained renewed courage to come forward with their stories and, as a result, waves of people are speaking out. Investigations are under way, cover up culture is being exposed, perpetrators are being held to account, policies are being revisited and strengthened and best practice learned in an unprecedented way. Abuse and exploitation within charities, churches and humanitarian agencies reveal another layer of scandal – a betrayal of the trust at the heart of the relationship between these organisations and their members or donors.

One thing I really love about the Bible is its honesty. There is no hiding the scandal around King David's adultery followed by the assassination of his soldier (2 Samuel 11), or Jacob's lies to his father so he could get precedence over his brother's inheritance (Genesis 27:19). Instead, it is all there in the open, for anybody to read in thousands of languages in a variety of versions. The scandal is laid bare.  

The good news of Jesus is described as a scandal by the apostle Paul, but of a different kind. It is a scandal to unbelievers because the gospel is counter-cultural in every way. It was a scandal to the Jewish leaders of the time, including Paul himself before his conversion, that God loved the Gentiles equally. That He offered complete, undeserved and irreversible forgiveness to the worst of sinners through the sacrifice of His Son was incomprehensible to all first century communities (1 Corinthians 1:23).

God's Messiah, came from the insignificant town of Nazareth, as a child he was a refugee, worked as a carpenter, hung out with those everyone else rejected, died accursed on a wooden cross and rose again defeating death for ever. For the Jews, this could never have been the promised Messiah. It was a scandal. To the Greeks, it was the worst sort of scandal because it claimed that this Jewish Messiah was God in the flesh.  

As Christians we have received such a scandalous gift of forgiveness and redemption. So how can we engage with those involved in such scandals? 

Let's pray for those involved, for the victims that they will find healing and restoration and for perpetrators that they will recognise their sin, repent and turn to God.

Let's pray that humanitarian agencies and charities will be able to continue to serve millions of needy lives across the world, even as justice is sought for those who have been exploited.

Let's pray that people will recognise the weakness of human nature and the structures of power, fame and wealth that so many worship and that they will turn their hearts to God. 

Let's be like the apostle Paul who was not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16&17) and proclaimed it boldly and wisely to a scandalised world. 

Join us on Tuesday, 20 February for Above and Beyond, a day conference for church and charity leaders on good governance and best practice. Find out more and get your ticket.

Image: Pixabay