At the risk of who knows what, I feel like I need to say this today, because my faith compels me to do so. I read an article this morning about three hate crimes committed this week, two of which ended in murder - thirteen lives lost. There are absolutely no words to properly express the emotions. I also know that in our culture (and our humanity) we quickly look for the reason and seek solutions to end these acts of violence through changes in policy, medical care, or leadership; and we rightly want justice. We need someone to blame to make sense of the madness, and we want to see the criminals punished. I get that. But can I tell you something that happens in my heart when I read articles about these perpetrators of evil? I think, I have more in common with that hater/murder than I want to admit. But because of what God has done in my life, I will admit it."
Now, what do I mean? Well, the Bible tells us that our biggest problem is not bad policies, bad healthcare, or bad leadership, not society, culture, philosophy or economics. The Bible teaches that the problem is sin and that it lives happily in every human heart. Sin is the desire in each of us to dethrone the God who made us, forsake the way He tells us to live, and to take up our place as rulers of our lives. According to the Bible, we are all born "bad people" in Adam (our forefather who ate the forbidden fruit - things were perfect between God and man before that, as He intended) and we need rescuing. Romans 3 quotes the Old Testament and tells us that there is NO ONE who is righteous, note even one. No one seeks God. So while I don't have any plans to own a gun, let alone enter a place of worship or my local grocery store to murder anyone, I AM CAPABLE OF IT - unless there is an intervention, a rescue, something that turns me down a new path.
Yesterday I got angry at some people at moments, people in my own home whom I love. And I am reminded that Jesus upped the ante when he compared anger with murder in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-22). No blood was shed in our home yesterday, but murderous seeds were sewn. By me.
I feel like this quote from G. K. Chesterton sums up what I'm trying to say:
Okay, but that all seems pretty hopeless, doesn't it? We're all full of evil. Is there any hope for me or the world? The Bible's resounding answer is YES!! And the answer isn't a 12-point how-to-not-be-evil program. The answer is a person, God Himself in the person of Christ. No amount of good works or penance could earn righteousness back for us, but God could. And He wanted to! So that evil in your heart? There's a remedy! That inability to "do better" when deep down you do desperately want to (and are really trying)? Transformation is possible!
But it takes surrender. We have to let go of our need to be ruler of our own hearts and lives, and let the King of kings back onto the throne. We have to believe that our only hope is Christ: that we needed Him to take our punishment (He did!) on the cross, so we could receive His righteous record in exchange for our own filthy RAP sheet. We "make it official" (i.e. become a Christian) by confessing our sin (both our condition and our sinful acts), admitting our need for Him and His work in our life, and declaring He is now Lord of our life. That's a long way of saying what Jesus called people to, which was to repent and believe the good news.
From that start, the true transformation begins! You are a new person! God's Spirit comes to live in you. You have the power to resist the sin that would have you return to it as master. I was reading Colossians 3 this morning and it is amazing. Putting off the old self and remembering we are made new is something we have to keep coming back to our whole Christian life. Eternity will be easy, all things will be made new and fully restored. For the time being, we are at war! But in Christ we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) and have hope!
Phew! Okay, I got a little excited there! But back to the beginning of this post and the tragic, disturbing, and heartbreaking events of this past week in our nation. I don't think that acknowledging that sin is the world's biggest problem means we don't fight for policy changes, vote in the leaders we hope will bring change, or move to see better mental healthcare and create better community where we live. But I do think it will rescue us from the "us vs. them" mentality that pervades our society, this erroneous idea that there are good people and bad people and if we can simply set up the best system and get rid of the bad people, we can eradicate evil on the earth. I really like that idea and wish it were true. But the truth is, we all need Jesus!
What's wrong with the world? Me. And but for the grace of God, there go I, guns blazing, hate raging in my heart, trying to forge my way in a world that was made to function best under the Creator's direction and care. Will you join me in turning to the Lord? Maybe in faith for the first time! Maybe so He can show you where your heart is still dark and needs His transforming power. Maybe for clarity in how to take action and be a light in places in our society that are full of darkness. Maybe for wisdom about how to interact in His love with those with whom you disagree. Maybe all of the above, and more.
Love you all, friends, and praying God will meet all your needs today in Christ,