So I'm not one to write much about current events let alone read all the posts, blogs and tweets that set the internet abuzz when an event as tragic as the Boston Marathon bombing happens or the lesser known murder trial of Dr. Gosnell. The latter is under the radar because the mainstream news isn't reporting it much but there are folks getting the word out about the late term abortion doctor that is on trial for murdering seven babies immediately after birth. These are complicated, messy stories that beg questions about how a good God tolerates such horrific evil. So I usually leave the analysis to more mature and wiser men and women of faith and find I'm often truly blessed when I read a God honoring post on their blog sites.
That was the case this week, which began with a post about Boston by Tony Reinke (you can read his whole post here http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/when-the-bombs-exploded-in-boston) and ended with one by Marshall Segal on both Boston and Gosnell. I also found some insight on Randy Alcorn's blog on the interesting effect pro-choice policy has on an act that would otherwise be equated to the Holocaust.
But none of these stories are readily available when my teenage kids come home from school and want to know why limbs are flying past people's faces after they ran 26 miles. Or why an eight year old boy watching dies. They come to me looking for answers because they trust me. I don't have all the answers, but there's Someone I trust too and that's Who I go to when evil runs amok.
First I talked to the kids about the shock of it all, because it's shocking. More so to Americans who don't see this kind of thing very often. I saw a Facebook post of a group of people in Syria holding up a sign that said something along the lines of "Our condolences...bombs go off here every day."
We're shocked at the evil in a person's heart that would cause them to kill what we would deem innocent bystanders. But the Bible speaks of evil in men's hearts from beginning to end. Genesis 6:5 says "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Ecclesiastes 9:3 says "the hearts of the children of men are full of evil." Evil hearts are a theme throughout the entire book of Jeremiah and the Gospels of Matthew and Mark both say evil thoughts come out of our hearts (Matt. 15:19 and Mark 7:21). So in a house where the Bible is continually read (and ours is one) we shouldn't be surprised when men do evil things. That's the problem with mankind. We're sinners. That's why God sent His Son to earth to live a perfect life and die a death we deserved. There is evil in the world and in us and it must be punished. God hates evil. But He loves us. So if the evil is in us, what can He do?
What He did was execute a plan He had from the start to both punish the evil and deliver us from it. He transferred the evil to His Son, who willingly took it all on our behalf so that by faith we can live free from sin and it's power. That's what happened on the cross.
But even those free from sin's power are still subject to it's influence. Evil is in the world (God cursed the ground when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit) and we should expect to see it. So that's where I started with the kids. We shouldn't be surprised by the evil.
But that's not a very comforting place to leave my kids. So next we went to prayer. We prayed for the victims, their families, the law enforcement and medical personnel, and the rescue workers. But there was still someone else to pray for and none of us were eager to do it.
How do you pray for bombers? How do you pray for a doctor that openly admits aborting hundreds of babies in the first, second and third trimesters and then even after birth with no apparent regret?
That's what brought me to Corrie ten Boom. If you've never read "The Hiding Place" I recommend you go to your local library check it out and read through every page. It's the true life story of Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie who were in concentration camps during the Holocaust. It's a gut-wrenching story but an uplifting one and there's a passage in it that God brings to my mind again and again when I go into vengeance mode. Corrie and her sister are trying to read pages from the Bible that had previously been used as toilet paper without getting caught by one of the meanest female guards at the camp and Corrie's heart (like mine) is wishing God's wrath be poured out on the hateful woman. But Betsie imagines with great joy that maybe one day God in His mercy will allow her to share the Gospel with that guard who has abused, mocked and imprisoned her. She imagines it with great joy.
So here's what I discovered as I contemplated the Boston Bomber, Dr. Kermit Gosnell and Nazi Germany. I think somehow their sins are more offensive to God than mine. And that's why I don't want to pray for them.
When I realize that I'm a sinner and that compared to God I look like Hitler, I get how gracious it was of Him to save me. I get that I was rescued from my own evil heart. And if I really understand the Gospel, I get that I didn't deserve it. I didn't do anything so wonderful that it canceled out all the gross and offensive stuff. And it makes me want to give God glory. I mean truly sing His praises (even if it is off-key) because of all He's done for me.
Imagine if a killer gets that. That he/she is saved by grace at no cost whatsoever and that there will be no punishment from God for those sins. How much more would they want to glorify God?
When a prostitute came to Jesus and the religious leaders balked Jesus rebuked them and said she loved much because she'd been forgiven much, but those who are forgiven little love little (Luke 7:47). How much more would God be praised by men and women forgiven of heinous crimes?
That's how I can pray for killers.