How Shall We Then Live?

Another mass shooting.

After a hurricane season that left many people in dire straits, only to see thousands upon thousands volunteer and donate to total strangers.

The worst of human nature and the best of human nature.

Is the answer simple? Do away with guns; teach children to combat bullying; show empathy to strangers?

I don’t think those are the answers. All the way back in Old Testament times God’s law specified what was to happen if someone hated his neighbor and waited for him with intent to harm him. In fact it was in the first family that the first murder took place. Guns not needed.

What was the motive for this latest shooting? It doesn’t really matter, I don’t think. We spend time trying to solve the wrong problem. We want to deal with the result, not the cause.

The cause, pure and simple, is the evil heart of humankind. We will not end violence when people still hate. We don’t end hatred by telling people they need more empathy. We end hatred by teaching forgiveness.

We end hatred by first experiencing the forgiveness unreservedly offered by God and then turning around and extending to others what we have received.

Our problem too often is not realizing we need forgiveness. We’d rather think of ourselves as independent, not rebellious; skeptics, not wayward; free thinkers, not slaves of sin. We are still the two-year-olds who tell their mother they want to do it themselves, whatever the “it” might be.

Not receiving forgiveness for our sins, we also don’t want to give forgiveness to “the really bad people,” whoever they might be. I just saw a bumper sticker that said, “Save a deer, hunt a pedophile.” See, people who prey on children fall into the really bad people category, so it’s OK to hate them.

We bristle at the notion that we are to refrain from vengeance and let God take care of pay-back. Because He might forgive them.

In other words, we have Jonah’s attitude. He didn’t want to go to Nineveh and tell the Assyrians—a violent, brutal nation—that they needed to repent, because they might just do a turn-around and God would withhold their punishment. Which was exactly what took place and which bothered Jonah. He wanted to see the deserved destruction he’d foretold come to fruition.

God rebuked Jonah (see 5:11) because of his attitude.

But here’s the point: waiting until someone does something egregious and then offering them forgiveness is too late. We need first to experience forgiveness ourselves, which means we need to see our own need for forgiveness. As soon as we do, there is no “them” and “us.” It’s just us sinful humans and we’re all in the same boat, all in need of a way of escape.

I’ll never forget when a history professor at my Christian college pointed out that my heart was the same as Hitler’s: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV) I don’t get Brownie points for being less desperately wicked than the Las Vegas shooter. Or anyone else. On a scale of 1 to 10, how desperately wicked am I? Does it matter?

In truth, no. Desperately wicked needs to be rescued, restored, forgiven, made new. And that’s precisely what God offers each and every one of us through the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ.

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Published in: on October 2, 2017 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] via How Shall We Then Live? — A Christian Worldview of Fiction […]

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