Is it gracious to let a fox loose in a henhouse? I believe most of us would say a hearty “no” to that, but think about it a moment.
Assuming for just a moment that foxes can talk, suppose a fox comes to you, the henhouse owner, and says:
“I know I’ve had some problems in the past, and may have possibly caused harm to a few of your plump little hens. However, all that took place when I was a young fox, still quite immature emotionally, with undeveloped techniques for dealing with my temptations and perhaps just a few boundary issues.
However, I have reformed. I want you to know that you were right when you expelled me from your area, and made me live for a while where I had no access to hens. Now I am mature and know my boundaries. I am sure I will never hurt your hens again.
Your henhouse was my favorite place. It is comfortable and I am happy there.
Remember, I am a living creature, just as those hens are, and I also deserve to have a place to live that is comfortable.
I am asking you to let me back into the henhouse. After all, you say you are a believer in grace and in giving second (and many more) chances to those who make mistakes.
Since you want grace yourself, it seems to me that you should also give me grace and open that door for me.
After all, doesn’t that Bible of yours say that you need to forgive and to be reconciled to the person who did wrong? I have apologized, after all.”
Now, what would you do?
The fox has made a decent theological argument. We are supposed to forgive, so the henhouse owner needs to forgive the fox for having eaten a number of his hens and terrorized the rest of them.
Maybe the fox really has reformed! Wouldn’t that be amazing — to show the world that a fox can live with hens and not hurt them? It would be a miracle — who could resist that?
So, would you open the door of the henhouse to the fox?
Of course not. A fox is still a fox.
Nonetheless, a church in Dallas has essentially done just that. It has opened the doors, placed a person in pastoral leadership with a known history of sexually predatory behavior toward young teen girls, and said, “Hey, this is in the name of grace. After all, he’s learned his lesson. He says he’s got a firm handle on his boundaries now. It’s a miracle.”
I ask, “Just how gracious is it to the vulnerable teens in that church to intentionally place a known sexual predator in a position of trust?”
I read about this church’s decision the day after I spent hours in a seminar to learn how to identify sexually predatory behavior. Most sexual abusers live and work in positions of trust.
They are likeable, believable, charming and enjoyable to be around. They carefully groom the gatekeepers, those who have the responsibility of protecting children and youth, and gain amazingly free access to their victims. Few are caught and prosecuted.
Most abuse hundreds of victims over their lifetimes.
I am all for healing, for growth to greater maturity, for miracles.
I want to breathe the world of grace, and am utterly grateful for the grace of God and the grace of my friends, family, colleagues and church members that is showered on me. To give that back is my greatest privilege.
But grace does not mean that we intentionally leave unprotected the most vulnerable of our societies.
Keeping the fox out of the henhouse may not seem gracious to the fox, but it surely is gracious to the hens.
Let’s be wise, folks. Not condemning, but wise. We can do this.
THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS is the pastor of First United Methodist Church of Krum. Reach her by calling 940-482-3482 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .