But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge. – Psalm 73:28
My grandmother asked me if I had been ill. I asked her why she thought that I had not been well. And she said that my eyes gave me away. I tried to play it off, but she was adamant and determined to understand what my heartache was from. Part of my exhaustion was for the very reason I found myself in conversation with my grandmother that friday evening. My grandfather had had a heart attack early that morning. Though he was in stable condition when I had visited him, the situation weighed heavily on my heart. Sadly, his health quickly deteriorated and Sunday morning he was whisked into the arms of Jesus. I have certainly struggled with his passing, not because I lack hope, but because I truly miss him. He was one of the most godly men I knew and we were very close. In fact, I was named after him. Though I intend to detail his life and what he meant to me later on this week, to honor his memory, there was a another situation that very same friday that truly shattered my heart, partly because of the close proximity of who it involved and partly because of its topical relation to all that I resolutely abhor and have been writing about as of late: the sex slave trade and abuse of children.
A Fox News article on sex trafficking details how this week marked the eighth week-long operation to terminate such crimes in the United States. There were “168 children rescued from the sex trade… [and] 281 pimps…arrested during the same period on state and federal charges (2014).” This sex-sting was concentrated in 106 cities nationwide and was coordinated by state and federal officials from Homeland Security and the FBI. But what makes this story hit home is not merely that fact that “these are not faraway kids in faraway lands,” as FBI Director James Comey stated, but the fact that one of the predators was a colleague. It should be noted that I have purposefully omitted the word, “alleged,” as following his arrest friday, John Balyo confessed to raping a 12-year-old boy.
John, who was host of a widely popular Christian morning radio show in West Michigan, was attending and live-casting from a three-day Christian concert series – Big Ticket Festival – in Gaylord, Michigan, when he was arrested. The radio station, which has since (appropriately, I might add) cut ties with John, is affiliated with the Christian university with which I am employed. With shocked, disgusted, and humble hearts, the university staff and faculty gathered this morning to lament, pray, and seek the Lord – first, for the victims that have been terrorized, and, second, for the depravity of the human heart.
Though I might never be able to make sense of, or even fully process, the horrendous acts John committed, I think it appropriate to declare that he in no way acted in representation of authentic Christianity, nor in conjunction with the Person of Jesus Christ. John deserves the full condemnation of the law that governs the United States of America, including the full extent of the consequences as a result of his actions. My hope and prayer is that he is brought to justice. Furthermore, I pray that his heart be truly shattered and that he seeks true repentance, for Christ withholds forgiveness from none that honestly seek it.
In addition to discussing John’s situation, I want to briefly discuss the media’s attention to this story, along with the saddening internet comments from every self-righteous “Joe Shmoe” with a computer and an opinion. Certainly John Balyo committed gruesome atrocities and is deserving of all criticism hurled his way, however, I am also disgusted by lowly individuals who are using this situation as a platform to score political points by raking Christianity through the coals. It is not Christianity that is the cause of such monstrous and destructive acts, so much as it is the sinful human being, imperfectly striving to live a Christian life (or maybe even lying about living a Christian life). Many call this hypocrisy, and it certainly is. But the message of Jesus is not that those who are Christians will not mess up or act hypocritically, it is that despite our shortcomings, despite our inability to do right, God’s grace and love and mercy is greater than the wrong we commit. Additionally, I find it appropriate to point out that despite the vast number of Christians caught up in such hypocrisy and sin, there are tens of millions of secular people caught up in the same acts. This means that this is not an issue solely to be focused on the Christian, but rather on the whole of humanity.
So what is the lesson to be learned? Likely John Balyo, just like many other sex predators, did not intend to ever get to the point where he would rape the innocence and future of a child. Instead, it very well likely began with a glance. There could have been explicit material he stumbled upon. For a while it satisfied. But to retain the high, his tastes began getting more perverted. And as more time was consumed with perversion, more opportunity began to present itself, until finally it led him to the sickening situation he found himself in, which has ultimately destroyed his life – rejection of his family, loss of a job, and loss of a future, as likely he will spend the rest of his life in prison. So let this be a wakeup call in your life, just as it is a wake up call in my life. If there is something you are dealing with, even if it is just at the onset, I urge you to end it. Do not let the potential embarrassment of your honesty and candidness keep you from asking a friend, a counselor, or a pastor for help.
As I conclude, I ask that you pray for the victims of these predators. They are our children. And their lives have been marred by physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse.
Return Lord Jesus, return.