Question: What do Jerry Sandusky and the Bayash Gypsies of Eastern Europe have in common? Answer: They are both unequivocally despised.
This is the thought that came to me as I watched lawyers and media interacting after the jury returned a guilty verdict on Sandusky. (Before I’m accused of being soft on crime, let me say that I am outraged on behalf of the young men Jerry Sandusky abused, saddened by the destruction of their lives, and satisfied that justice has been served.) Nevertheless, I cannot escape a sense of grief for this man and for the shame and ruination he has brought to his own family.
This is why the media response to Sandusky’s conviction was so intriguing. I was immediately struck by the lack of humility and grief exhibited during this strategic moment. Like vultures, gleefully extolling the fall of another human being, they seemed to be gloating over Sandusky’s conviction. It could easily have been a macabre pep rally, only instead of cheering for the home team, there was vindictive delight over another’s fall.
As I watched, I wondered what these critics would be doing should their secrets be exposed for all to see. Though their indiscretions may not be illegal (unlike Sandusky’s which were clearly illegal), many of them would cringe if their misdeeds were publicly displayed. And frankly, I think there is little room for gloating if we understand the darkness of our own hearts.
Which brings me to the Bayash gypsies. Traditionally a despised people, gypsies are often viewed as the lowest strata of a society. But the Bayash, sometimes known as “the gypsies’ gypsy,” are a notch below the generic gypsy. Endemic to the typical Bayash village is alcoholism, incest, crime, poverty, and virtually every other societal ill.
Yes, the Bayash are despised. But by whom? By those fortunate enough to not have been born into alcoholism, incest, crime and poverty. And there is a line that connects Jerry Sandusky with the Bayash…and us. It’s a line of brokenness, judgment, grace, humility, mercy, and forgiveness. This line intersects the cross of Christ. Whether it’s a convicted pedophile or a despised ethnic group or Dave Shive, we are all desperate for the kindness displayed in Christ, in need of forgiveness, and hungry for mercy. And if we understand that, we can temper our scorn of others or pride in the face of their trouble with a sense of gratitude over what God has spared us from.
This month I will spend some time among two European groups: residents of the country of Germany, and the Bayash of Croatia. Joining me will be my son, Mike, and oldest grandson, Josh. In Germany, we will be surrounded by post-Christian affluence and nihilism as we explore with my sister and her husband how to plant the church in this dark place. And in Croatia we will be partners with Bob and Nancy Hitching who have pioneered the Roma Bible Union, a most authentic ministry among the most reviled. We will seek to serve them in any way we can.
Pray for us as we go. We are no better than wealthy Germans or hated Bayash, even as we are no better than Jerry Sandusky. Were it not for mercy obtained at the Cross and for the power of God’s grace, we would all be atheists or nihilists or pedophiles or alcoholics or victims of incest or perpetrators of abuse. Pray as we are surrounded by affluence and paganism on the one hand, and filth, odors, germs, mud, and wasted humans on the other hand, that we may be conduits of the love of Christ because God has been so gracious to wretches like us. – Dave Shive