Joe Paterno, legendary football coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, was buried this afternoon. For 61 years, he coached at Penn State, the first 15 of which was as an assistant coach. Through his many years, he built a solid reputation for being a man of integrity. He placed a high emphasis upon moral conduct and strongly pushed his players to perform well in the classroom. Through Paterno’s efforts, the Penn State football program built a reputation for doing things the honorable way. He and his wife gave much back to the university he served, even giving $4 million to the school’s library. Oh, and by the way, he won more games than any other Division I coach in history (409 wins).
Yet, one blight on Paterno’s character will always be remembered and will always shadow over his innumerable accomplishments. One of his long-time assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, was exposed as a child sexual offender. Ten years before the arrest, Paterno had been told of Sandusky’s shameful activities and reported them to the authorities at the university. But, he did nothing to pursue it any further. Paterno fulfilled his legal requirements, but he failed in his moral requirements of stepping in to stop this wretched activity. When things came to public light, Joe Paterno would say in a statement, “With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.” A few hours later, he was fired from his coaching post.
Such will be the sentiment of many who come to the end of their lives. They will wish that they had done more. God’s standard for life is perfection. Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It’s a standard that none of us will ever be able to maintain. We are weak, fallen creatures. Our only hope is for one to be perfect in our place. Such was Jesus. He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). The good news is that “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross” (1 Peter 2:24). We simply need to trust in Him, and His perfection becomes ours!