As I sit alone on my couch, with my children and wife sleeping, I ponder the activities of my day. I was privileged enough to speak to a group of wonderful people at an event centered around gun violence and related crimes. I was part of a panel of seven speakers that held various viewpoints on this most important issue. It was a wonderful experience. I shared with them what I want to share with you now as you read this.
It was a grotesque scene, but I was limited to only observing it in pictures. This body seemed to lack humanity, yet I was reminded of this once living, breathing human being by his mother’s uncontrollable weeping in court.
I remember working one particular murder trial as a bailiff many years ago. My job was to secure the courtroom and ensure defendants were in the right place at the right time. In doing so, I had a great deal of contact with defendants, and so begins this story. This was a case where the victim was murdered, buried, and subsequently exhumed. Enough time had passed to ensure that his body still resembled the human form in shape, but not in feature. It was a grotesque scene, but I was limited to only observing it in pictures. This body seemed to lack humanity, yet I was reminded of this once living, breathing human being by his mother’s uncontrollable and constant weeping in court. These kinds of things were no longer just in the news. It was real. I was pretty new in law enforcement, and experiencing these horrors of life for the first time. It was here where justice would wage against this murderer who would soon to be found guilty 0f this horrendous offense, but this wasn’t the most significantly influential thing for me. The most significant thing was the fact that this defendant was a hilarious human being. When the fact that he was a cold blooded murderer was removed, this is the kind of guy you would want to hang out with. It wasn’t significant that he was funny all by itself. It was significant that he was funny and a murderer all in the same human being. This was a strange dichotomy of horrible acts against a fellow human being contrasted in the backdrop of his humanity. My young mind was stunned, and found it difficult to process. How could this person do this thing, yet show no remorse? How could he look at these pictures, hear the mother crying, and as soon as he was out of the courtroom start telling jokes? My answer would come after doing this job for a few more years. My answer would be solidified in experience, and looking through the lens of Scripture.
Over the course of my career I have observed a great Biblical truth emerge. I am reminded often of Isaiah 5:20-21 where we read: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” These words indicate a vacillating morality being addressed by God, and the word “woe” indicates the coming of divine judgment. Morality that is driven by individual people, gangs, and societies will always vacillate. They will go this way for a while and that way for a while modifying what is right and wrong as they flow. This is the reason that this funny guy did not show any conscience. Nothing even in the arena of feeling sorry for what he did, because he believed it was right. It was a morally superior solution to his problem in his mind. This isn’t a conclusion that I have solidified based upon one case, it is a conclusion that I have been persuaded to believe steadfastly after an untold number of interactions with evil people. Quite literally they have told me so during interviews by saying repeatedly that they “didn’t do anything wrong” while still claiming culpability for the action itself.
Morality exists apart from me and apart from you. If we try to ignore this, we will always have gun violence. In the future, perhaps, we will call it laser violence, or whatever new thing becomes the manifestation of the evils within the human heart.
In the Christian faith, morality is not a thing that we can change. It is not up to us. This system of morality was handed down from our Creator who is unashamed about telling us like it is. The text does not hide that He will stand in judgment of our hearts and our innermost being, but He took our sins to the cross for people who call Him Lord. He took this judgment for people who make Him Lord of their lives. Morality exists apart from me and apart from you. If we try to ignore this, we will always have gun violence. In the future, perhaps, we will call it laser violence, or whatever new thing becomes the manifestation of the evils within the human heart. We recall the word “woe” indicating a coming of divine judgment for the person who goes against God’s prohibitions with our own human behavior. We must remember that calling Jesus “Our Lord” has the direct implication that we are subject to His morality and not our own. Simply put, we must follow what He says.
People sometimes think that murderers, rapists and the like are not human beings, and I disagree strongly with that idea. They are human, and their actions represent the part of humanity that will judge with a righteous anger. When we call these people animals, we remove their God given responsibility towards their fellow man, and I cannot remove anything that God has placed in its place. Remember again the word “woe.”
Until our world stops creating and recreating what is right and wrong this societal problem will always exist. Until we align ourself with God who created human beings in His own image, and teaches us that innocent human life is sacred this will always be an issue. Dr. Billy Graham succinctly encapsulates the idea that will clearly identify our problems in this world. He says that it is the problem of the human heart.
This has implications for all of us. Every single one of us. We must look into the mirror and see who we really are. We must stop acting and screaming out of hatred, yet be steadfastly firm in our resolve to preserve innocent life. We must love our enemies, but not live with our heads in the sand and pretend they do not exist. If that day finds us we must have previously prepared ourselves to visit overwhelmingly superior violence on the evil to preserve innocent life. We must not altruistically allow evil to overcome, and we must reject the idea that Jesus did not take a stand for what was right and wrong with decisive action. He forcefully aggressed to His task, a task that we were unable to accomplish. I am grateful that He did this for you and for me. He took the “woe” for people who serve Him as Lord of their lives.
We must wrap our minds and hearts around the certainty that God will not bless our nation, and our world until we turn from our selfish intrinsic morals and turn to His system of righteousness. Our morality needs to be firmly rooted within the entire text of the Bible, and not in just one or two verses that we like because they make us feel warm and fuzzy.
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Isaiah 5:21 – “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!”