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“A Million Good Things”
By Gary F. Zeolla
“You do a million
good things in your life, and one bad thing,
and all people remember is the one bad thing.”
The above was my dad’s comment about Joe Paterno and the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. And he is right about Paterno. He has done “a million good things” in his life. He has positively affected the lives of probably tens of thousands of former and current student athletes, along with donating millions of dollars to the university. But now, if someone even tries to defend “Joe Pa” they are vilified, like has happened to Steeler great and former Penn Stater Franco Harris.
Meanwhile, Paterno’s name was removed from the new Big Ten Championship trophy and his name withdrawn for consideration for the President’s Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian federal government medal available. All of this has happened because Joe Paterno did not act the way many believe he should have acted when told about the possible child sexual abuse by then assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, even though Paterno did all that he was required to do legally.
“Judge Not …”
Many misuse Jesus’ statement about not judging, as discussed in two articles posted on this Web site (“Judge Not …” and Judging the Beliefs and Behaviors of Others). But I believe this verse does have applicability here, when taken in context.
"Stop judging, so that you* shall not be judged, for with what judgment you* judge, you* will be judged, and with what measure you* measure, it will be measured to you*” (Matthew 7:1,2; ALT3).
It is very easy for people to judge Joe Paterno, given that they were not there and do not have all of the facts, as to what he was told and what he told his superiors. And no one knows how they would act if they were in the same position. It’s easy for people to self-righteously pontificate about what they would have done, but they really don’t know.
But most of all, do all of those people condemning Joe Paterno really want their lives to be judged by one bad action they might have done, or in this case, for something they didn’t do, with every good action they’ve done being ignored and forgotten? I would say that most would not.
And as humans, we need to remember this. No person is perfect; no one has done exactly what we should have done at every instance of our lives. And given that we are not perfect, we shouldn’t be so quick to judge what someone else did or didn’t do at a particular moment.
Innocent until Proven Guilty
A basic premise of the legal system in the United States is that people are innocent until they are proven guilty. But that standard unfortunately is not used in the public media and by most people when judging others. Everyone just assumes that Jerry Sandusky is guilty. As such, they just assume that Paterno’s supposed lack of action led to the molestation of additional children. But in many recent high profile cases, people that were assumed guilty by the media and by most people were found innocent in a court of law.
The most pertinent example is Michael Jackson. He was charged with multiple counts of child molestation. And the “facts” did sound convincing. He fully admitted to sleeping with children in his bed. Fully admitted to liking to be around kids, to touching them in non-sexual ways, and there were multiple children coming out saying they were molested by Jackson, and even a supposed witness. All of this “evidence” parallels what we have in the Jerry Sandusky case.
But Michael Jackson claimed he was not sexually attracted to children and that his actions were not sexual or sexually motivated in any way. Sandusky has made the same claims. And none of us knows what was in Michael Jackson’s heart when he was sleeping with the kids or Jerry Sandusky’s heart when he was showering and “horsing around” with the children.
But importantly, in court, each and every one of the witnesses against Michael Jackson was discredited by Jackson’s defense attorney. And Michael Jackson was found not guilty.
Now I am not making any judgment about the guilt or innocence of Sandusky. I will wait until he goes to trial and leave the judgment to the jury. But that unfortunately is not the attitude of all of the self-righteous TV and radio commentators whose comments are based on the assumption that Sandusky is guilty, and thus Joe Paterno is guilty by association.
But these commentators and the public do not have all of the facts and thus are not in a position to make such a judgment. And most of all, we are not giving Sandusky or Paterno the benefit of the doubt that we would want if we were charged with something that we claim we didn’t do. And we definitely wouldn’t want people telling us how we “should have” acted in a particular instance.
One Who Can Judge
But there is One who can judge with full knowledge of all of the facts, and Who is perfect, not guilty of anything Himself, be it action or inaction. That is God. And God does judge us for each and every act that we do or don’t do. And he knows our hearts, so he knows why we do or don’t do what we do in life. Thus He is in a position to righteously judge us. And the standard by which He judges is perfection. So all of those who want perfection from Joe Paterno and all other public figures need to realize that this standard is how they are going to be judged.
The problem is none of us are perfect. We all have done or not done things in our lives that render us less than perfect. Thus we are all sinners, in need of forgiveness and salvation. And that is what the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, forgiveness and salvation from our sins.
Jesus died on the cross so that we could be forgiven of all of our sinful actions and inactions. But we need to confess our sins, our sinful actions and inactions, and we even need to ask forgiveness for any “unknown” sins. In other words, there are probably many things we have done in life that we don’t consider “that bad” but which God disapproves of. And there is probably many times in each of our lives when we should have done something “good” when we did not. And that, yes, is sinful – “So to the one knowing to be doing good and not doing [it], to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Some additional Bible verses that are pertinent to this topic are worth quoting. First are verses showing God knows our hearts and why we do and don’t do things:
And He said to them, "You* are the ones justifying yourselves [or, declaring yourselves righteous] before the people, but God knows your* hearts, because the exalted [thing] among people [is] an abomination before God (Luke 16:15).
And having prayed, they said, "You Lord, knower of the hearts of all [people], disclose which one of these two You chose (Acts 1:24).
And the heart-knowing God testified to them by having given the Holy Spirit to them, just as also to us, (Acts 15:8).
Now the One searching the hearts knows what [is] the mind-set of the Spirit, because according to God He intercedes on behalf of [the] holy ones (Romans 8:27)..
So then, stop judging anything before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden [things] of the darkness and will reveal the counsels [or, intentions] of the hearts, and then the praise will come to each from God (1Corinthians 4:5).
For the word of God [is] living and effective and sharper than every double-edged sword and [is] penetrating as far as [the] division of both soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and [is] able to discern [the] thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
Next are verses showing that God demands perfection but that we each fail to meet that standard but instead have sinned:
Therefore, you* will be perfect, just as your* Father, the [One] in the heavens, is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse [or, purge] ourselves from every pollution [or, defilement] of flesh and of spirit, perfecting holiness in [the] fear of God (2Corinthians 7:1).
Not at all, I say to you*, but if you* are not repenting, you* will all likewise perish! (Luke 13:3).
What then? Are we [any] better? Certainly not! For we previously charged [that] both Jews and Greeks are all under sin, just as it has been written: "[There] is not a righteous [person], not even one. [There] is not [a person] understanding; there is not [a person] diligently seeking after God. All turned aside, together they became unprofitable; [there] is not [a person] doing goodness [or, what is right], [there] is not so much as one (Romans 3:9-12).
For all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
But the Scripture confined all under sin, so that the promise shall be given by faith in Jesus Christ to the ones believing (Galatians 3:22).
If we should say [or, claim], "We do not have sin," we lead ourselves astray [fig., deceive ourselves], and the truth is not in us. … If we should say [or, claim], "We have not sinned," we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (1John 1:8,10).
And finally, verses showing we can find forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ.
for this is My blood, the [blood] of the New Covenant, the [blood] poured out on behalf of many for forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28).
to give knowledge of salvation to His people by [the] forgiveness of their sins (Luke 1:77).
and [for] repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).
This One God has exalted to His right hand [as] Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31).
To this One all the prophets bear witness [that] through His name every[one] that is believing [or, trusting] in Him receives forgiveness of sins." (Acts 10:43).
to open their eyes [in order] to turn [them] back from darkness to light and [from] the authority of Satan to God, [in order for] them to receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among the ones having been sanctified by faith in Me.' (Acts 26:18).
in whom we have the redemption by means of His blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, according to the riches [fig., abundance] of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).
If we shall be confessing our sins, He is faithful [or, trustworthy] and righteous that He shall forgive us our sins and cleanse [or, purge] us from all unrighteousness (1John 1:9).
“A million good things.” Maybe you feel that you have done that. But it takes just one act or inaction of indiscretion to ruin your good name in the public’s eye and to make you guilty before God. Redeeming your name among the public might be difficult, but being forgiven by God is not. Just acknowledge that you have sinned, that you are not perfect, that you need forgiveness, and God will forgive you, and you will find forgiveness from your sins in Jesus Christ.
Scripture taken from the Analytical-Literal Translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible: Third Edition. Copyright © 2007 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org). Previously copyrighted © 1999, 2001, 2005 by Gary F. Zeolla.
July 14, 2012 Facebook Post
The following is a Facebook post I made after the Freeh report came out implicating Joe Paterno and three other Penn State officials in a cover-up of Sandusky’s crimes.
“The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17; NASB).
“Innocent until proven guilty.”
To all of those who are condemning Joe Paterno based on the Freeh report should take note of the above two statements. The Freeh report represents just one side of the story. As Jay Paterno, Joe’s son, pointed out on “Sports Center” on ESPN, Freeh did not have subpoena power, so he was not able to interview several key witnesses. So the whole story has not been told.
Unfortunately, Joe Paterno will never get his day in court. He will never get the chance to defend himself. As such, we will never hear the other side of the story. As such, we will never know exactly what Joe’s role was in the alleged “cover-up.”
What we do know is that Joe Paterno was a great man who did great good for his student-athletes and Penn State in general for over six decades. But rather than giving him the benefit of the doubt (“Innocent until proven guilty”), most everyone has already judged him guilty. It is so easy to kick a dead man who cannot defend himself.
But what I think disturbs me most of all, is how self-righteously people are talking who are condemning Joe. I think it makes people feel better about themselves when they see a “righteous” person “exposed” as committing some sin. We all are sinners, and we just cannot take it to hear about someone who is more righteous than us, as that makes us feel guilty about our sins. But to hear that a righteous person is not as “perfect” as we thought means that we by comparison are not that bad. But it must be remembered that who we will ultimately be compared to is not any mere human being but to Jesus Christ. And by that comparison, we are all guilty, and stand in need of forgiveness and a Savior.
Now I am not saying whether Joe would be found guilty or not if he were to have his day in court. I just don’t know, and neither does anyone else. There have been so many public cases lately where people just “knew” someone was guilty, but they were found not guilty (Casey Anthony, Michael Jackson, etc.).
But what has happened to Joe’s legacy confirms what I wrote months ago, based on a statement by my dad. That article is posted on my Web site [as seen above].
July 22, 2012 Facebook Post
Very sad to hear they took down the statue of Joe Paterno. 61 years of service to Penn State, all wiped out by some unproven charges. But at least they are leaving his name on the library.
July 23, 2012 Facebook Post
The NCAA slammed Penn State for the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal Monday with an unprecedented series of penalties, including a $60 million fine and the loss of all the school's victories from 1998-2011, knocking Joe Paterno from his spot as major college football's winningest coach.
Other sanctions include a four-year ban on postseason games that will prevent Penn State from playing for the Big Ten title, the loss of 20 scholarships per year over four years and five years' probation. The NCAA also said that any current or incoming football players are free to immediately transfer and compete at another school (Fox News).
Then there’s this from the Big Ten:
3. Ineligibility: As referenced in the NCAA release, Penn State's football team will be ineligible for postseason bowl games. It will also be ineligible for Big Ten Conference Championship Games for four years, a period of time that runs concurrently with the NCAA postseason bowl ban imposed this morning (Big Ten).
I am very saddened by these developments. The NCAA has basically gutted the Penn State football program, which effectively will “punish” hundreds of thousands of people not involved in the Sandusky scandal, such as me. I enjoyed watching Penn State football, but their games will basically be meaningless for the next four years, since they will not be playing for a Big Ten Championship or a Bowl Game appearance.
But then, they probably won’t be eligible anyways since Penn State will not have a winning team for the foreseeable future, since all of the good players will probably leave Penn State, and no new good players will be coming to it.
These sanctions will gut Penn State’s athletic program in general, since revenues from football fund the other Penn State sports. All of the people employed by Penn State’s athletic programs will be hurt, along with local businesses which depend on Penn State athletics for revenue, such as local sports bars.
But most of all, the students are hurt by not having athletic teams worth playing or cheering for, and by having their school in essence blacklisted.
All of this is the equivalent of punishing the children for the sins of the parents, something the Bible specifically forbids.
And finally, this destroys the legacy of Joe Paterno. A man who is now dead and cannot defend himself. But at least he died knowing he was the winningest coach in college football, even though he no longer “officially” is.
The people directly involved in the scandal should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, after a fair trial. But to punish the university in general and all of those with ties to it in this manner is beyond the authority of the NCAA. This whole situation was a criminal matter, not a football matter.
November 09, 2012 Facebook Post
For all those who assume Joe Paterno was guilty, see the following Web site: Framing Paterno.
“A Million Good Things”. Copyright © 2011, 2012 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).
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The above article was posted on this Web site November 18, 2011.
The updates were added as indicated.
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