"Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur" (Luke 17:1).
Jesus was realistic about the temptations and traps that lie in the path of people seeking life. He knew that even where the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. He himself experienced the lies and distortions that Evil proposed in the desert to convince him that doing apparenty good things to succeed in his ministry would not lessen his obedience to God. He knew how evil worked and how much damage it could do.
One area of temptation that earned his sharpest rebuke was when someone uses their superior position or the trust of another, especially a child or any vulnerable person, to draw them into a sinful act. Jesus said that it would be better for that person to have a millstone hung around his or her neck and be cast into the sea. Those who introduce others to sin, who seduce or persuade an innocent person to do wrong, do far more damage than any other kind of behavior, for they take what is good, what is best about a person, and corrupt it. It is one thing to harm a person physically, but a far greater sin to damage their self-image or to compromise their sense of personal privacy and integrity.
Jesus' warning echoes down through the history of the church to condemn any kind of use of power to corrupt another. In our own time, the sin of child abuse has delivered a deep wound to the effectiveness of the church to carry out its mission to proclaim God's goodness and love. Wealth and power have created a culture of sexual entitlement in the halls, boardrooms and hideaways of today's corporate, political and entertainment establishments. How many young people, both women and men seeking careers and advancement, have felt their lives ruined by seduction, harassment and blackmail?
The only power able to break such cultures of corruption is to replace them with cultures of compassion, sincerity and integity. Where sin abounds, grace must abound even more. Where evil has taken hold, the power of repentance must prevail. And where sinners are willing to acknowlege their wrongs, forgiveness should provide a road back to trust and healing for both victims and perpetrators, restorative justice by sinners for those sinned against.
If this seems impossible, Jesus himself demonstrated the power of healing by taking upon himself the weight of human corruption by his death on the cross. What is not possible for us was accomplished by God's infinite mercy revealed in Jesus. Even the worst sinner need not escape the saving power of the crucified Christ, who extends a hand even to the one cast into the sea with a millstone around his neck. To believe this is enter the mystery of divine Mercy, which is there for all of us.