Maddi Runkles, Fornication, and Forgiveness

Hagerstown, Maryland is home to Heritage Academy, a Christian school. Its principal is David R. Hobbs. Students who attend Heritage the fifth through twelfth grades sign a pledge not to engage in sexual immorality, or use illicit drugs, alcohol or tobacco. The school believes a well-rounded student should meet moral as well as academic standards.

Maddi Runkles a student at Heritage became pregnant. Maddi contemplated an abortion but decided to have her child. She told her parents and together they informed the school.

Initially, the school dismissed Maddi. Her parents, her father was president of the school’s board, appealed that decision. The school decided to let her remain enrolled, but she would not be allowed back on campus after the spring break. They appealed that decision and the school issued its final decision; she was removed from being president of the student council and would not be permitted to walk at the graduation ceremony.

When the school refused to budge any further Maddi’s father resigned from the board and the family took their argument public. They enlisted the help of the pro-life organization Students for Life of America. Its president Kristan Hawkins spoke with principal Hobbs about allowing Maddi to walk at the graduation and he refused.

Hawkins says the school is trying to shame Maddi for being pregnant, Hobbs says the school is holding Maddi accountable for her immorality. Both sides are trying to maintain their positions.

Some points need to be made. Maddi is claiming to be a “practicing born-again Christian,” but fornication is not a born-again Christian practice. She and her parents claim the school is shaming her (as if her condition would not become readily apparent in time), but they went public in an effort to shame the school into letting Maddi walk at graduation.

Maddi’s parents say she should be held accountable, but have not been forthcoming as to what that means exactly, they just don’t like the school’s idea of accountability. Maddi’s father says the school should be gracious since Maddi has repented, but I do not see the contrition in Maddi and her parents’ actions that characterize repentance.

I suppose the strangest thing I have heard in all of this is a journalist who said the school’s position does not seem to be practicing “Christian” forgiveness. He made that statement as if he understands the biblical doctrine of forgiveness.

God forgives us when we sin in response to genuine repentance and it restores the relationship between God and man that was broken by man’s sin. Christians forgive others to guard our hearts from the sin of revenge and the sins vengeance would lead us to commit. Forgiveness was never meant to be a get-out-of-jail-free card to escape the consequences of our actions.

“He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently,” Proverbs 13:34. To discipline is to love, and it seems the only ones willing to love Maddi are principal Hobbs and Heritage Academy.

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