Question:

A week ago a brother in Christ has confessed to his wife (our sister in Christ) that he's been molesting several little kids. He came forward because he's been caught. He repented in front of the church (not giving any details). He asked the congregation to pray for him regarding his sexual problems and pornography he's been dealing with for many years.

My questions is: some members want to call the police because he is pedophile. I am a bit confused. Help me please with this dilemma (I Corinthians 6:1-6). He truly repented last Sunday morning and now many of us don't know what is the next step. We know for sure that the Lord has forgiven him of his past sin (I John 1:8-9). What we don't know is what to do next, phone the police?


Answer:

That would need to be up to the parents of the children he sexually abused. They need to be informed, if they do not already know, that the children were abused. If they decide that it needs to be reported to the police, then he needs to accept this as the consequence of his sins. His wife may also decide that she doesn't want to have a man who was involved in a particularly disgusting form of fornication for a husband. If she decides to divorce him, she would be within her rights (Matthew 19:9).

The man, himself, needs teaching about his responsibilities to control himself. He also doesn't see other people, or at least children, as actual people and that problem needs to be addressed. Also men's responsibility to protect the innocent needs to be discussed. You are likely to also find that he was sexually abused as a child as well. This teaching needs to be done regardless of whether he serves time in prison or not for his crimes.

He also needs to demonstrate repentance. "For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow, has produced in you: what vindication of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging of wrong! In everything you demonstrated yourselves to be innocent in the matter" (II Corinthians 7:10-11). He voluntarily removes himself from all contact with children in any private setting. He stops looking at pornography, and he sets up ways that he can be checked on. In other words, he shows that he rejects these sins so thoroughly that he doesn't trust himself and fears falling back into the trap.

I Corinthians 6 deals with civil matters between brethren. If a person has committed a crime and does not repent of it, it can be the judgment of the church to turn the matter over to the government. As Paul once said, "If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die; but if none of those things is true of which these men accuse me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar" (Acts 25:11).

Thank you brother Hamilton for replying to my question so quickly. This matter is very important for all of us as a congregation right now.

Let me give you some more information: One of the children this brother abused is his niece who now in her twenties and wants to press charges against him. Should I discourage her from doing that, knowing that we must forgive our brother who sin against us? Does Matthew 18:15 apply?

Her mother is encouraging her daughter to press charge and the family of the abused girl does not want to come to church any more. They are all members of the church. Do I, brother Hamilton as a preacher, have the responsibility to tell the congregation what our repentant brother has done and turn him into the authorities? He confessed his sins only for some sexual problems and pornography, but never mentioned the molestation of many girls. Should I go into details stating that he is a pedophile and that we all need to be careful?

Is our sister free to divorce him knowing that there was no "penetration" in any of the cases just touching and using his fingers according to him?

Sorry my brother for asking so many questions, but I consider this situation extremely important in order to keep the unit and the peace of the congregation.

Thanks again. May the Lord bless you.

Since he did not attempt to recitfy the situation with his victims, and it is clear that the matter is not settled, I would not discourage her from doing what she has a legal right to do. For all you or I know, he is trying to avoid legal trouble by saying he repented. At the moment you don't have evidence of repentance beyond his words.

Matthew 18:15 applies only if the woman involved tried to get the problem resolved and eventually enlisted the aid of the church to get the matter brought to light. This isn't the case here. She finally had the courage to speak up about what happened and only then did this man talk about repenting.

Pentration of the penis is not necessary for something to be classified as fornication. In the legal code rape is defined as any penetration, such as with fingers or objects. Even if he put his finger in a girl's vagina, it still meets the legal definition of rape if the person was underage or was above the age of concent and did not give it.

For example, if someone admitted to murder, we still expect the person to turn himself in to face the consequences of his actions. We still work with the brother to make sure he has changed, but his past actions come with consequences. It would be better for this man to turn himself in. It would be a part of his demonstration that he has changed because he rejects his past. But if others choose to turn him in, then you need to be understanding. As I said, it is a consequence of the fact that he sinned.

And, yes, since his sins were fornication, his wife may choose to divorce him, especially if she is uncertain if he has truly changed or if she has children she feels the need to protect.

As a preacher, I would remind people that forgiveness is required for their own entrance into heaven (Matthew 6:14-15). If they are not certain that he has truly repented, then they need to do what is necessary to protect the innocent. It cannot be done for personal vengeance (Romans 12:19). That by the way, goes for the preacher as well. We are told things in confidentiality, but if we are told someone might harm himself or others, then action must be taken to protect people from harm.

You have to remain neutral in the matter. You oppose the sin that was done in no uncertain terms, you support the victims in their grief, and you encourage the sinner to make permanent changes in his life so that he is no longer the man he used to be. You cannot just help the man who sinned. Even then you'll likely be told that you are wrong because you worked to change the sinner.

Since you mention that the victims are also in the same church, then it would be best for the man to move to a different church until such time that his victims say that they have fully forgiven him. His remaining would be a constant irritation and would show no sympathy toward those he harmed.

One thing to remember is that you were not aware of the sin until recently. I assume the victims were in this man's family and some family members were likely aware and kept it hidden. This too is an issue that needs to be discussed in the congregation -- not in accussing anyone but in making people aware that hiding sin only allows it to spread.

Ideally a sinner repents and people instantly forgive. Practically, even when a person sincerely repents, others need time and help dealing with the fact that the sin did happen. You can see this in the II Corinthian letter when dealing with the man who was withdrawn from. Just telling them they must forgive isn't enough to resolve the inner turmoil. It won't really happen until they can bring themselves to love the one who was once their enemy.