The Struggle of Grace

Val sent me a text message this afternoon at work.  It said that she was sick over a child abuse case in the news that was going around Facebook.  I try to avoid the news in general but, in a slow afternoon, I decided to look it up.

In a trailer home just outside Coatesville, PA, three-year old Scotty McMillan was beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend. The abuse happened over a few days and started when Scotty refused to eat his breakfast.  Local news coverage is here.  I’ll warn you, the details are enough to give you nightmares.  Authorities stated it was the most severe case of abuse they had ever seen.

So the child’s mother and her boyfriend are both facing murder charges.  The prosecutor has said he will ask for the death penalty.

Is he right?

As someone who follows Christ, I stumble over grace.  We know the concept. We understand forgiveness and redemption. It is freely given for those willing to take it.  We talk with friends, life groups, peers, and family members and nod with sage understanding.  Yes, grace.  Grace.  Grace for all!


Then this happens.

As a father, my heart burns with a desire to see punishment. Look up the news article and you’ll see pictures of Scotty.  He was a beautiful, innocent boy who did not deserve to be tortured.  As a man, I want justice.  Child abusers are monsters in the purest form.  No child deserves physical violence.

It is a philosophical tug of war.

The Bible tells us, forgive seventy times seven, don’t let the sun set on your anger, love your neighbor. We tell ourselves such trite lines as hate the sin, not the sinner, patting ourselves on the back for being a solid judge of character and putting ourselves in a position of power, not humility.

We jump on our pedestals and hold grace high above those who need it.

I guess I’m not there yet. I feel more like Peter, ready to pull his sword and strike at the threat against Jesus. It is a walk, a battle, and a process.

Scotty has returned to his true home in the hands of his Creator.  He’s running and playing in a paradise greater than anything on this planet.  He is finally safe. His mother and her boyfriend will pay for their crimes. Their sin will be judged.  Maybe some out there can forgive these people.

I want Scotty to have not died without a purpose.  I want his killers to face justice, in this world and the next.  I want one parent reading the news coverage to hesitate the next time they feel angry enough to raise their hands against their children. These horrific events can create a ripple effect across the world.

Grace makes for a great sermon topic, book, and podcast. We can talk a good game but, can we live it?  When we face true evil, how do we respond?

No one is perfect.  We have our own scars and we are works in progress.  The first step is recognition, as anyone in AA knows. One day our lives will end and we will fully understand grace, we will meet Scotty in heaven, we will be new creations.

Until then, the struggle continues.  What if it was a little boy you knew and loved? The imperfect man in me wants retribution for Scotty’s death.

And I’m okay with that.


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5 thoughts on “The Struggle of Grace”

  1. Those philosophical tug of wars can be so hard sometimes. Our feeling tug at the humanness in us all. It’s a constant battle. The higher self, the part that rises above being wounded cheers for forgiveness but the heart wants retribution. It’s a tough dilemma.

  2. This brings home to me how fragile life is, and particularly how fragile is the life of a child; totally dependent on others for everything. “Unless you become like a little child…” I can only pray to be enabled for that same dependence on the One who is the Author and Finisher. You captured how real our struggles are in this world, Matt. I am so thankful that I serve a god to whom I can let go of this kind of thing, because I too, don’t know how to think, or what is right, or what is just in His eyes. I can only ask for His Grace.

    1. You are totally correct. These things send us into spins of debate and emotion. Conversation is healthy and it is a blessing to know we are allowed to work through this and trust that, on some level, the right thing will happen and that God has it in his hands.

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