In another sense, though, if someone who committed a horrible sin, offense or crime grieves over that sin and by the grace of God repents and makes perpetual and successful efforts at changing one's mind, which will affect one's emotions, which in turn will affect one's behavior, that person may regain his or her integrity and earn back and continue to gain the trust of others. Even so, however, I think that people ought to hold such a person to more stringent standards in demonstrating his or her integrity -- especially if the offense committed was sexual in nature.
First, the apostle Paul informs us that every sin a person commits is "outside the body; but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body." (1 Cor. 6:18 NIV) Note the distinction the apostle renders sexual sin: it is set apart for its own category; it is a sin of the mind, the heart, and the body. Second, once a sexual offense has been committed, there will always -- always -- remain, even in a small measure, a potential for some sort of future offense, even if the potential offense does not mirror-image any prior offense committed. This reminds us to always perform good deeds, because whatever deeds we perform, whether good or bad, the likelihood of repeating those deeds becomes exponential once performed. Potential victims are to be protected and considered a priority over and above the feelings of a former offender. Third, what must be understood about those who have committed a sexual offense is that the offender is well trained at being deceptive. Think about this seriously: prior to my offense, no one knew that I was struggling with sexual desire for my seminary roommate, nor did anyone imagine that I was capable of behaving in any sexual or ungodly manner toward him. I learned how to hide my true feelings, my inner struggles, while maintaining the trust of others
So, how might one who has offended, whether sexually or otherwise, another human being created in the image of God regain his or her integrity and earn back the trust of others? I will give my amateur opinion, which I have learned from over a year and a half of therapy, and from much reading on the issue of offenses. Trust is always earned and rarely assumed. Once trust has been broken, earning or regaining trust can be very difficult, and in some circumstances can never again be achieved. Offenders of any stripe need to realize that people have a right to question our motives, our words, behaviors, actions, and to ask us difficult and pressing questions regarding our various interactions in any organization, whether societal or in the church. (This is especially true for anyone who has committed an offense against a minor.) What we really want people to see, however, is not that we can be trusted, as in some surface manner, but that we are daily striving toward making healthy choices mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally.
Moreover, our motive in this regard cannot be derived from an interest to maintain or be accepted in a leadership role, to serve on a committee where trust is a major component, or even so that others will think better of us. Certainly, we want others to not view us as monsters. However, what is most important for us is to consistently think, feel, and live a healthy, transparent, godly life. If this is our consistent experience then people will see the results for themselves; we will not incessantly cultivate a need for others to perceive us in a positive light, but will be satisfied within ourselves that we are living as we should, and trust the Lord that the results of godliness will shine through for His glory and for the edification of the Church. Through this long and arduous process we must daily remind ourselves that living a healthy and godly life is a process that will take many years and much striving. Our goal is always "no new victims."
In order to accomplish such a goal we must never fear or neglect the supporting structures in our life (Christ, prayer, Scripture, pastor, family, friends, the church); never fear transparency, since it is a helpful aid in the healing process; and never fear the time that cultivating a healthy mind and godliness takes.
Christ is more than willing to see us through on this journey to the end.
This post was written by William Birch. For the original post with comments, go to: http://classicalarminian.blogspot.com/2013/11/earning-broken-trust.html
BE A MAN.