The Worst of the Worst

Jill Morikone

Growing up in church, I thought sins were placed in boxes, categories based on their level of “badness.” The white lie my friend told, or the jealousy that swirled in my gut was sinful. I knew that. But there were worse sins than jealousy: the man who came home drunk and beat his wife, or those on the street who offered money or even their bodies, in exchange for the next high. Even as a little girl, I instinctively felt those sins were stronger, more public, and somehow required more forgiveness.

It’s strange how we rate sin, solely based on our culture and background. Even with that sliding scale, there was one sin so dark, so menacing it wasn’t spoken of at all. If it was, it was whispered above my head, from one distraught mom to another, he is a child molester. I learned early on that these men were the worst of the worst, the untouchable in society.

Somewhere in the midst of those judgmental years, I met Jesus. The more I saw Him, the more I saw myself. In fact, my own sins were far worse than I ever imagined. I learned that forgiveness brings freedom. And with freedom, comes a new way of looking at oneself and the world around you. There is such purity in love, and the more I allowed Jesus to love me, the more I received His healing and grace. And the more freedom I experience, the more grace and love I can extend to others.

Yet, even with that growth, there was still one group I never let myself think about, that seemed to lurk on the edge of society, and even on the edge of God’s forgiveness. I had seen the trauma of abused children, heard their stories, and felt my anger rise at those who committed such unspeakable acts. Surely, God, You won’t connect me with one of those!

So, I held them at a distance.

Recently, a letter crossed my desk from a prisoner. He’d watched me on 3ABN and was reaching out for help. I casually began reading, sorry for his pain. He’d attended our schools, been married with a family. Then, this sentence leaped off the page: “I am a child molester serving natural life. My victim was my own daughter.”

I swallowed hard. What about his daughter? What about her trauma? Would offering compassion to him somehow mitigate her pain?

Taking a deep breath, I continued reading. About how his father and mother were murdered when he was little, and how he grew up institutionalized, where molestation and incest was rampant. He wasn’t excusing his behavior, because he believed it unforgiveable. He thought being in prison “would help but I can’t stop hating myself for what I did…Jill…it would be better if I had a millstone tied around my neck and be drowned.” The words swam in front of my eyes, “I am the worst of the worst and I accept that and deserve it with no excuses or desire to escape the consequences. I just need to know if my fate is already decided…if not you, then who?”

I laid the letter on my desk as I stared out my window. I had come face to face with myself and discovered that my heart was ugly. I was supposed to be a Christian woman, teaching the Word of God, leading people to Christ, and I had held at arm’s length people purchased with the blood of Christ. Tears streamed down my face as I recognized the depravity in my own soul.

Does extending forgiveness to one negate the experience of the other? No, it doesn’t.

Are there consequences for sin? Absolutely.

Can God’s grace and redemption reach even the untouchable in our society? Yes! And by His grace, I can learn to see others through Jesus’ eyes.  Who is the worst of the worst? That day in my office, I discovered it was me.