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Proud Illusions

One of the preachers at our local church shared this weekend on the sixth commandment from Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder”. He went on to rightly observe that the narrow application of this commandment is “capital murder”. But the broader application includes hatred and other vices. And though he did not make the point, I would add that in between actually is a more broader interpretation of violence offered by Prophet Obadiah.

What really struck me was this important observation he made. He said that deep down our hearts we are no different from those who commit the worst atrocities. It is only by the grace of God that we ourselves have not done the crimes that fill us with disgust when we read about them on television or watch them on Crime and Investigation television channel. For after all it was our sins that nailed Jesus Christ to the cross. But even more than that without other restraints we too are just as capable. 

That observation reminded me of three important quotes that I have come across recently that make same point. Jim Andrews in Polishing God’s Monuments pointedly notes our evil capacity from birth:
The breast of every child harbors a potential beast. Those who were once precious infants have perpetuated all the inhumanities of man on other men. The awful reality is that all human beings are bankrupt from birth; it’s just that in babies that spiritual condition is temporarily latent rather than active.
Jerry Bridges in Trusting God observes that often we do not know our weakeness until we are tested by circumstances:
We may think we have true Christian love until someone offends us or treats us unjustly. Then we begin to see anger and resentment well up within us. We may conclude we have learned about genuine Christian joy until our lives are shattered by an unexpected calamity or grievous disappointment.
Randy Alcorn’s in The Goodness of God really brings it all together with a personal illustration :
[The] sin nature we’ve inherited means that apart from Christ, we differ only in degree—not in kind—from the most notorious murderer or most ruthless dictator.

Just fifteen miles from our home, Westley Allan Dodd tortured, molested, and murdered three boys in the late 1980s. Dodd was arrested, tried, and convicted for the crimes. Shortly after midnight on January 5, 1993, he was hanged. Thirty minutes after he died, the twelve media eyewitnesses recounted the experience. I felt stunned as one of them read Dodd’s last words: “I had thought there was no hope and no peace. I was wrong. I have found hope and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Gasps and groans erupted from the gallery, fueled by palpable anger.

The idea of God offering grace to Dodd utterly offended the crowd that had come to see justice done. That’s when it hit me in a deep and personal way—I am part of the same human race. I’d imagined the distance between Dodd and me as the difference between the South and North Poles. But from God’s viewpoint, the distance is negligible. Apart from Christ, I am Dodd. I am Osama bin Laden. I am Hitler, Stalin, Mao. Only by the virtue of Christ can I stand forgiven before a holy God.

This isn’t hyperbole; it’s biblical truth. We’ll never appreciate Christ’s grace so long as we hold on to the proud illusion that we’re better than we are. We flatter ourselves when we look at evil acts and say, “I would never do that.” Given our evil natures and similar backgrounds, resources, and opportunities, we likely would.
How I pray that God enables me to remember these truths every time! I wish that when I see evil around me it drives me to my knees to pray for the perpetrators before I condemn. I wish it moves me to look at my own wickedness and thank God for the Cross of Jesus Christ! Too often, I am tempted to think less of my own sins and in the process take for granted for the blood of Jesus Christ. May God help me not only to look to Golgotha but to remain there daily!

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2013

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