A pedophile who refuses to do these things is not repentant and should be put out of the church immediately. The pastor must also make it clear that any ministry the pedophile receives shall not come at the expense of his victims. Just as salvation comes first to the Jew, then to the gentile (Romans 1:16), the victims receive their ministry first. A pastor should never sit on the pedophile’s side of the courtroom while there are victims from his community on the other side. A repentant pedophile would understand this position and encourage the pastor to hold it.
Recently, there have been several scandals involving high-profile pastors who have welcomed convicted pedophiles into their churches. These pastors have argued that all people, no matter how broken or how egregious their sin, should receive God’s grace. The problem is, these pastors are being deceived by men who aren’t really repentant and, therefore, pose a grave danger to others in the church. Today, I want to address the pedophile’s deception and show what true repentance and ministry to them should look like.
A Pretense to Repentance
One thing pastors should know is that true repentance is extremely rare for pedophiles. It takes a profound sense of entitlement and a profound lack of empathy to sexually violate a child. Many have spent years charming and manipulating people to gain access to victims. These are people whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). They purposely prey on the weak and vulnerable. It takes a serious shock to the system for these offenders to own the pain they have caused.
When it appears that the law may be closing in, the pedophile begins seeking allies who will shelter and defend him. Because the Church offers grace for those who repent, that is often the first place a pedophile will go. He will strategically choose a church that is in another city, county or state–someplace where his crimes and victims are not yet known. Often, he will join the church as a newcomer and begin ingratiating himself among the unsuspecting members. He may announce to the church that he was once “a wretched sinner,” but has recently given his life to Christ. He may hint that his sins were “really bad,” but he is now “living a new life.”
Only when it appears that his crimes won’t remain hidden does the pedophile then privately approach the pastor and confess. To the pastor, who is not yet aware of any legal action, it may seem that the pedophile is confessing out of genuine remorse. That is almost never the case. The pedophile is aware of the charges being filed against him and is seeking to usurp the narrative. He will say such things as,
- “It was a misunderstanding.”
- “I made a mistake.”
- “I didn’t really know what I was doing.”
- “Things got out of hand.”
- “I let the devil control me.”
- “I really cared about the child.”
- “It was terrible for me.”
The pedophile will only reveal as much as he needs to sell his story. A little truth makes the lie go down smooth. He may even sob and appear emotionally distraught. He will often claim that he got on this path because he, too, was victimized as a child.
A gullible pastor will be moved by this performance. He will buy the pedophile’s claim that he wants to turn from wickedness and live a new life. There is just one problem: his victims are seeking to put him away for life. How will he pursue his new God-given purpose if he’s forever sitting in prison?