Law and Gospel in Judge Aquilina's Court
I will not rehearse the grotesque acts of Larry Nasser.
As you probably know by now, Nassar is the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor whose crimes led to his disgraceful end. Today (January 24) he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. It is estimated that Nassar sexually assaulted over 150 women and girls.
During the sentencing, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina gave some of those assaulted by Nassar an opportunity to address the court and the man who victimized them.
Rachel Denhollander is the woman who first shone the light on Nassar's deeds by recounting the abuse she suffered at his hands. Mrs. Denhollander’s statement in court was powerful. But it was much more than that. She gave a better presentation of law and gospel than you will hear in many evangelical churches.
Mrs. Denhollander spoke boldly about the depth of Nassar’s guilt. Her words exposing his actions and the impact of those actions gave him no place to deflect his sin or in anyway minimize its impact. Extraordinarily, after methodically naming his evil she held forth the radical promise of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. I say “radical” because that is exactly how it sounds in light of Nassar’s wicked deeds.
In all of this we are reminded that the gospel demands repentance. It is not a self-help program meant to make good people better. The gospel is not a nice word for nice people. It is a word of pardon for those devestated by their sin. It is a promise made to sin's slaves that purchase has been won through the death of God’s Son. So great is the sinner’s guilt that nothing else would satisfy the demands of perfect justice.
Speaking directly to Nassar, Mrs. Denhollander said:
In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.
If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.
The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God's wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
Read Rachel Denhollander's entire statement HERE.