My Softball buddy, Total Depravity & the Christian
I got the email yesterday from a good friend that a guy we both know well was arrested on five counts of possession of child pornography. This guy, who I’m calling here ‘Eddie’ (not his real name), is a guy that we both went to church with for a number of years and played on softball teams that Eddie and his wife organized. I’ve been in Eddie’s house a couple of times for church functions and Eddie and his wife volunteered with my wife Sherie in our church’s youth group. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been a little off since hearing the news. I keep thinking of how much it will change the rest of the lives of all four members of his family, especially his two small kids, who now will likely grow up without their father at home. This was a guy that has a shared history with our family, and each of my three kids have distinct good memories of Eddie and his wife’s time as their youth group leaders. If you were to have met him a year ago before he and his wife moved out of state, you would have said they Eddie was definitely a Christian who loved Jesus and wanted people to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The question in my mind has been, ‘How could something like this happen to someone I thought I knew pretty well?’
While I don’t have all the details yet (although I must say it is particularly hard seeing his mug shot online), I have a few ‘quick hit’ thoughts about the situation:
- The stats about Child pornography are horrific and shocking. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimated that more than 26 million sexual abuse images and videos were reviewed by their analysts in 2015. Additionally, NCMEC reported that since 2002, more than 10,500 victims depicted in child pornography have been located and identified by law enforcement. According to NCMEC, 4.4 million Cyber Tipline reports were submitted in 2015. I cannot even begin to fathom the depravity it would take to exploit children in this way, especially given the already vulnerable state that children are in. To possess, view and distribute this material is horrific and awful.
- Since Eddie and his family moved away about a year ago, I know very little about how his life has been going, outside of the fun pics on Facebook I’ve seen of the family on the beach near where they live now. Clearly, a lot had to have gone wrong to not keep himself away from these horrific acts. What I do know is that Eddie is just like every other human who ever lived (except for Jesus!), that his heart is ‘deceitful and desperately wicked’ and that as I try and figure out in my own mind how this could happen to someone I thought I knew well, it brings to the forefront the theological topic of total depravity and the Gospel.
- The doctrine of total depravity states that there is not one part of fallen man that is free from the crippling effects and guilt of sin. We cannot please or obey God unto salvation apart from Christ. For the believer, this doctrine then emboldens us to preach Christ to the unbeliever, who alone is able to give them new life in order to be saved. For those who accept Christ, we follow Paul’s teaching that, ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come,’ giving the believer freedom from the dominion of sin. While we continue to sin, we are now able not to sin, having the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us through faith in Christ. I believe then that the disciple of Jesus does not remain in his/her total deprivation, while still having the influence of sin as a daily part of the Christian’s life. The disciple of Jesus is free from the penalty of sin through Christ’s payment on the cross, but we are not free from the presence of sin.
- Finally, while I clearly believe that the disciple of Jesus has been changed to lead a new and increasingly godly life that serves and pleases God, mirroring what Paul wrote to Titus, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,’ we must remain vigilant against slipping back into our unregenerate mindset. This is why, as I wrote extensively about in my latest book, I think living in community with other believers that values transparency and accountability as cornerstones of your ‘tribe.’ As we learn more about what happened with Eddie, I would guess that we will find out that Eddie either didn’t have a ‘tribe,’ or was not very transparent with them about the sin struggles going on in his life.
May we all, especially
during time where we are falling backwards, have a group of people willing to
walk with us during the hardest of seasons of our lives.
 Jeremiah 17:9
 2 Corinthians 5:17
 Titus 2:11-12