The other day Penn State had several football players arrested. Not really that big news I know, football players getting arrested. But what was big news was the punishment for the crime. Instead of releasing these players from scholarships, or individually punishing the the players involved, Old Paterno had something else up his coaching sleeve.
On Sundays after home games, the football team has to clean up the entire stadium this fall season. That includes the coaching staff as well. Apparently they will get paid, but then put the money back into the the club athletics programs.
Paterno has been criticized for the move, but I think there is some method in his madness. These several football players haven’t just made a bad name for themselves, but for the program (I can’t remember the names of any of the players-even if they were released, you wouldn’ remember them by name). The good name of Penn State footbal, if it ever had a good name, was slandered by the offense of a few. And so to redeem or atone for that crime, the whole team is going to prove itself to the outside world that Penn State is in fact a respectable program.
What I admire about this incident is not necessarily the punishment, but the fact that Paterno recognized that the actions of the members of a team bring either glory or shame to that team. Individuals themselves may be forgotten, but the team is remembered-for better or for worse.
The same is true for the church today. The church of Jesus is slandered for the actions of its members. I don’t propose that we clean seats, and there is no way to atone for any of our sins except by the blood of Christ. But I do believe we ought to understand that what we do brings either glory or shame upon Christ. And those who hate the church (and I’m not exonerating them) often have been given reasons to do so by those claiming the name of Christ. So we may have to spend some time apologizing for the sins of others. Of course this is in addition to apologizing for our own sins. But this bit of good news: going to church on Sunday is better than cleaning seats-for ours have been made clean by one who came before us.