The Gospel Coalition

Jesus said the most fundamental responsibility we have is to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. In light of this he was asked, "Who is my neighbor?" which is another way to ask, "Whom am I obligated to love?"

At Penn State, we have been asking questions about obligation all week. Who is legally obligated to report sexual abuse of a child, and to whom must they report it? Who is morally obligated to report sexual abuse of a child, and to whom must they report it? Is there a difference between moral obligation and legal obligation?

Jesus responded to the heart of that question in his famous story about the Good Samaritan. Surprisingly though, he didn't actually answer that question. He answered a more important one.

First, though, consider two of the victims described in the grand jury's findings in the case against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. According to the report a graduate assistant saw a 10-year-old boy (victim two) pressed against a shower wall being raped. The assistant then left, eventually called his boss, and reported what he had seen, just as he was legally obligated to do.

In contrast, when victim six returned home from a visit with Sandusky, his mom noticed he had wet hair. On the basis of that small detail alone she was concerned and learned that they had showered together. Immediately this mom called the police, cooperated in a wiretap, confronted Sandusky to his face, interrogated him about the details of showering with her son, grilled him about the effect he had on her son, and rebuked him, telling him never to shower with another boy again.

What's the difference between these cases?


The difference is the mom loved her son. She loved her little boy and was moved to outrage by the simple fact of his wet hair. She moved aggressively. She wasn't fulfilling a legal obligation, and she wasn't fulfilling a moral obligation. Obligation wasn't the issue.

Love is the issue. The shame engulfing Penn State is about a deficiency of love. The chief responsibility of our life is loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbors as much as and in the same manner that we love ourselves. "Who is my neighbor?" is the wrong question. According to Jesus, the right question is, "Am I a neighbor?" It's not, "Who must I love?" It's, "Am I one who loves?"

Ultimate Love

Again, the chief responsibility of our lives is to love God and others as we love ourselves. But we don't. If we're honest, it's not even close. We don't love anyone with the vigor and thoroughness that we love ourselves. Jesus Christ is the only one to walk the earth who fulfilled that command. He is the ultimate Good Samaritan, and he is the one who loves radically. He said, "Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends." And then he did just that. He loved radically; gave himself away---not just figuratively but literally. He laid down his life as a sacrifice on the cross to protect us from the punishment our sins deserve. He loves you as much as he loves himself.

To the extent that fact penetrates your heart, it will transform you and make you love better. It will give you not just the affection of love, but the courage of love. A love that moves to protect. That moves into danger. A love that doesn't measure obligation but suffers so the beloved won't. The kind of love that would notice wet hair and respond immediately.

In order to love like that we need to first mourn over this evil. There has been an urgency for us at Penn State to get past or even deflect this shame. Don't do that. Let the shame into your heart. Grieve. Mourn. If we will accept the glory of Penn State, we must also accept the shame, and this is a shameful moment.

Let shame produce softness and repentance in your heart. Perhaps God will give you the grace to see your own failure to love in others' failure to love. As you mourn and confess that failure to him, you can experience his love, become one who notices the wet hair all around you, and move to love others.

Read the full text or hear this talk delivered earlier this week at the large group meeting for Cru at Penn State.


Love Notices Wet Hair « From My Life

November 22, 2011 at 02:57 PM

[...] Love Notices Wet Hair. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

[...] Then on Saturday, November 12, 2011, an article appeared on The Gospel Coalition blog entitled, Love Notices Wet Hair, which decried the Penn State abuses. The title came from a reported situation in which a young boy [...]

Michael Carr

November 17, 2011 at 04:07 PM

Great example of true, biblical love. But the people involved at Penn State are not Christians, so would we expect anything close to Christ's love?

[...] of Campus Crusade for Christ on the Penn State campus. I hope you will take the time to read this article Posted in Culture | Tagged heart issues, Penn State [...]

[...] the case against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. According to the report agraduateassistant saw a 10-year-old boy (victim two) pressed against a shower wall being raped. The [...]

Love vs. Self-Preservation « chucklestravels

November 16, 2011 at 07:36 PM

[...] know it … it only shows self-preservation. if you want to see how love reacts, go check out this blog site and then come back and [...]

Larry Rogers

November 16, 2011 at 04:05 AM

Tim, good thought, but having heard the news last night I think it only fair that you revise your report of the facts. It seems the coach did try to protect the boy. He first stopped Sandusky then he called the police. This, unlike the news reporting, does not contradict his testimony. In the grand jury, you are only testifying to the actions of the defendant and his own actions would have been irrelevant at the time.

[...] [...]

Love Notices Wet Hair : Principal’s Page

November 15, 2011 at 04:03 AM

[...] This article paints a picture of a mother’s love (One of the victim’s mothers!) and contrasts it with a person just doing his job and wanting stay under the radar. [...]

[...] Tim Henderson: [...]

Jim Pemberton

November 14, 2011 at 09:20 AM

I'm sorry if anyone thinks it's not very Biblical, and it may not be, but if I walked in and saw one of my kids being raped, you'd likely have to visit me in prison for killing the rapist on the spot. I could make the decision now to only to restrain someone in a situation like that, but I can't guarantee that anger kindled out of a love for my child wouldn't get the better of me in the moment.

One thing I would never do if it were anyone is walk off while someone is in such distress and leave the rapist to finish the deed while waiting to report the incident later. I'd stop it immediately and report to the police ASAP.


November 14, 2011 at 09:11 AM

wow, powerful.

[...] think this blog post is very well written and gets to the heart of the Penn State scandal and what we need to take from [...]

More Abuse. Keep Eyes Wide Open | my treasure

November 14, 2011 at 01:03 AM

[...] act in progress. How could he have allowed it to go on? The answer: he didn’t love enough. Another of this man’s purported victims had a different story. The boy’s mother noticed his hair was wet after a visit to the famous [...]


November 13, 2011 at 12:42 AM

James 4:17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it, sins.


[...] Taylor recently posted a helpful talk given by Tim Henderson, the director of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) at Penn State. Tim [...]


November 13, 2011 at 08:34 PM


Thanks for posting this important message. I think it will help bring comfort and healing to all of us who love Penn State and love the Lord. May we love others the way he loves us. May we protect those who are defenseless. Remember how Christ treated and noticed children. "Whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble..."


November 13, 2011 at 08:13 PM

No I would even say He loves us MORE than He loves himself (Phil 2). That is why He sacraficed all He had for us. And that is why God gave Him even more glory than He had to begin with (if that is possible-whole thing is mind blowing). What is sure from Phil 2 is that Christ's sacrafice and humiliation for our sake in every imaginable way, is the reason God exalts him before every created being.

I believe the article elevates God's love of man and therefore elevates man (the object of His love). When you elevate God and then realize he loves us to the point of dying for us, man gets elevated. When I try to elevate myself apart from God (protect my status, ego, defend my bad attitude, sin of silence) then I fall farther into the shame of sin described in the article.

Brian think of it this way, when someone honors my husband they don't invite him to a big dinner and sit me out in the hallway. You can't honor my husband without honoring me, we are one, we share a name. This is why we are the bride of Christ. When you honor God you honor the object of His love and He thanks you. In the same way you dishonor Him when you fail to honor his bride.


November 13, 2011 at 07:51 AM

the other insane thing is that we are co-heirs with Christ, that our inheritance is such that God has given us the kingdom along with Christ. Yes it is hard to comprehend that God loves us to the extent mentioned, and our sinful hearts want to take that to elevate self to a level not allowed (ie. Satan and the reason he was cast out of heaven) While I am no proponent of the whole self-esteem mindset, we do need to realize that we are incredibly loved and valued by God, and this should move us to repentance and humility as well as the point the author is making - love toward others.


November 13, 2011 at 07:33 PM

Wow. This is powerful! Thank you for this. It puts it in perspective.

Tim Henderson

November 13, 2011 at 07:23 AM

Hi Brian,

Tim Henderson here, the author of this post. I hope it's not bad teaching but I'm open to correction if so. When Jesus says the greatest commandment is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength we understand that God fulfills that himself. God loves God supremely with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. In fact he fulfills all of his laws, as they are an expression of his own nature and perfections. I think therefore we are safe in saying that he also fulfills the second half of the greatest commandment: He loves his neighbor as himself. I'd suggest that Jesus' entire life was an expression of this.

In John 17:23 Jesus prays "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." I believe that he is equating the Father's love of the Son with the Father's love of us. Which is absolutely insane, but I think it's true nonetheless. I wasn't trying to be hyperbolic, but biblical as best as I understand the case of God's ridiculous love for man.


brian smith

November 13, 2011 at 06:50 AM

is it just me or is the author's italicized statement that "he loves you as much as he loves himself" an example of bad teaching. this is obviously a beautiful article, but seems like it elevates the value of man to the value of God. someone please help me if I'm missing something, or please affirm if I'm not.

[...] Love Notices Wet Hair The Gospel Coalition Blog [...]

Megan Toth

November 13, 2011 at 05:33 PM


While that might be true, I feel that we cannot judge what it is they held in high esteem. We don't know if it was fear of the football program or their careers that made them turn away. We don't know if it was because of the university's name that it was covered up. We don't know if it was the thought of a friend being that heinous that led to this not being reported. All of that is unknown to us.

What we do know, though, is that they didn't love the boys. And at least for right now and maybe forever, that's all we need to know about the coaches and then we can take and reflect upon how we love and what idols we create.


November 13, 2011 at 01:49 PM

"What's the difference between these cases? Love."

Or, perhaps, the object of one's love. For coaches, love of a football program along with love of their own careers was enough to turn a blind eye to this heinous crime.

[...] thoughtful post here by the director of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) at Penn [...]


November 12, 2011 at 06:47 PM

Brilliant and convicting - an echo of my own heart. May we all start noticing the wet hair around us and be moved to act courageously and compassionately, no matter what the cost. Thank you for reminding and exhorting us, Tim.

Scott Jensen

November 12, 2011 at 05:55 PM

Wow, powerful post, we really are commanded to love EVERYONE

Don Sartain

November 12, 2011 at 05:21 PM

A good friend of mine summarized this blog this way: "Obligations be damned. Love's the issue at Penn State. Always is and is beyond me to get right. Love notices wet hair."

I couldn't say it better myself.

Church Chair Guy

November 12, 2011 at 05:05 PM

Thanks for writing from within the campus family.

Kurt Earl

November 12, 2011 at 03:50 PM

Great thoughts. I posted my perspective on my blog Compete4Christ. Might be a good supplement to this post.

[...] What is the difference between fulfilling a legal obligation and love? The story of the Good Samaritan demonstrates the difference, as does the contrast in reactions by the Penn State coaching staff and a concerned mother in the recent horrible sex scandal. Tim Henderson, campus director for Campus Crusade for Christ at Penn State opens this up more in a recent Gospel Coalition article, Love Notices Wet Hair: [...]

Joshua Lefler

November 12, 2011 at 03:19 PM

Amen. Amen. Amen.


November 12, 2011 at 03:06 PM

Yes, Tim.

What Silence Says...

May 17, 2013 at 07:04 PM

[...] when The Gospel Coalition published an article about the Penn State Child Abuse Scandal titled “Love Notices Wet Hair” back in November 2011, I shared it. Because they were words that needed to be [...]

Love and Courage | christianasianmom

June 30, 2012 at 11:43 AM

[...] was a mother’s love who discovered her son’s wet hair. Noticing the wet hair was one of the keys to finding out the truth, namely that Sandusky was [...]

[...] Love Notices Wet Hair The Gospel Coalition Blog “[T]he chief responsibility of our lives is to love God and others as we love ourselves. But we don’t. If we’re honest, it’s not even close. We don’t love anyone with the vigor and thoroughness that we love ourselves” [...]

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[...] wrote/gave a brilliant talk to the Penn State Cru movement following the news on Sandusky in Fall [...]

Monica Arredondo

August 1, 2012 at 04:36 PM

Just read this & I'm moved...I grieve for the victims of this incident. I'm grateful for this touching article & vow to always do my part to protect & love those that I encounter!