Out in the Light

Why expose the church’s most shameful sins?

The world watches. It watches when we sin—and it watches more closely how we respond to sin. Even though the world may deride our faith and morals, it still expects us to be different. Publicly responding to sin with integrity is a greater testimony to the gospel than is sweeping sin into the dungeons of secrecy.


Last week, WORLD Magazine published an investigative report on sexual abuse in Protestant churches, a three-part special section showing the problem’s severity and prevalence even within evangelical circles.

Sin, of course, knows no boundaries. Sexual abuse is not merely a Catholic problem or a Protestant problem, but a miserably human one. There’s nothing new about physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Yet … oh, the disappointment! How it stings, especially when in some of these cases, it’s apparent the church deliberately chose to ignore or minimize the abuse rather than expose and uproot it.

A couple of weeks ago, I told a pastor’s wife that I was working on the investigation, and she grimaced: “Is it … necessary to publicize this?” I asked her what she meant. She said, “Do you have to write about what happened? It’s not glorifying to God’s name at all. Yes, we should report any crimes to the police, but why air out our dirty laundry to the world, and give them more ammunition against us? It’s just not good testimony. Our mission is to save souls, not deter them from Christ.”

Now, this pastor’s wife is someone I respect, someone who for more than two decades faithfully served in ministry, visiting the poor and sick, holding the hands of people who weep. But what she said disturbed me, and I found myself unprepared to respond Biblically.

So I decided to formulate some thoughts in response to these concerns. Here are five reasons why I believe that Christian journalists should expose sexual abuse:

1. It is what God calls us to do.

Ephesians 5:11-14 states, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’”

1 Timothy 5:20 commands that the persistent sins of spiritual leaders be exposed: “As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”

The Scriptural metaphors of light and darkness make clear that we expose sin so that Christ shines brighter than the wretchedness of sin. Exposing sin glorifies Christ by pointing to our desperate need of Him.

2. The Bible exposes specific sins, even in great characters—and especially in great characters holding positions of authority.

We all know of the infamous scandal between King David and Bathsheba, recorded in 2 Samuel. The Bible goes into detail about their affair, devoting a whole chapter to it in the same pair of books that extol David as a man after God’s heart.

The narrative uncovers David’s pride and lust. It reveals the deaths that emerge from David’s gross violation of power. It describes how David pulls bystanders such as Joab into the cover-up of his sins. The Bible pulls no punches, because God regards sin seriously. By exposing it, God shows us that His justice is fair.

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