For it is by grace you have been saved...

Friday, April 19, 2013

This Shouldn't Surprise Us

Everyone knows of the horrific events in Boston this week.  By now you also know of the two young men suspected of being behind the bombings.  Two Chechnyan brothers have been identified, gone on the run, and one is already dead.  According to Fox News, it's been a violent end...

"The suspects apparently surfaced just hours after the FBI released their imaged late Thursday afternoon, shooting the police officer, robbing a convenience store, carjacking a man who later escaped and engaging in a wild shootout with Boston police, in which they hurled explosives from their stolen car."

As I stood in line to buy coffee this morning, I heard the reports on the radio and I heard comments like this: "How could someone so young already be filled with so much hate?" I've been hearing the same kinds of comments all week long. "How can someone do something like this?" "What are they thinking?" How, why, what's going on?

On the one hand, I agree with those questions. We like to think of ourselves as "reasonable" and "good" people, and acts like this befuddle us. We can't imagine what goes through the minds of someone who would bomb a marathon with an obvious attempt to maim and kill. And again, I agree; I can't imagine what goes on in their minds.

But the answer isn't as foreign as we might think. Jonathan Edwards once taught on the “dreadful condition” of natural man, and he said in part:

“The hearts of natural men are exceedingly full of sin…The heart is a mere sink of sin, a fountain of corruption, where issue all manner of filthy streams...The souls of natural men are more vile and abominable than any reptile. If God should open a window in the heart so that we might look into it, it would be the most loathsome spectacle that ever was set before our eyes.” 

I have to remind myself that he's not just talking about "those people out there."  Apart from Christ, apart from some really amazing grace, my heart is just like that.  We're born that way, drowning in sin.  I have to remind myself that my rebellious heart has the potential for the same hatred, the same violence as whoever it is that planted those bombs.

I know we don't like to hear that.  I know we want to act like we're better than this or that person.  I know we want to think that we're "basically good" people.  But the clear teaching of Scripture is just the opposite.  Ephesians 2 begins by saying:  "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (Eph. 2:1-3, ESV)

Dead, following the sinful nature, disobedient, children of wrath.  That describes all of us.  I'm so grateful that Paul didn't stop there.  I'm so glad verses 4-5 continue: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved." (ESV)

Only God's grace can change us from depraved sinners with the kind of hatred and violence that leads to the most horrific things; not just bombings, but all sorts of vile and destructive things:  abuse, adultery, abortion, addiction...(and those are just the "a"s).  Again, I know we like to categorize sin, and say that the events in Boston are worse than the gossip and slander and bitterness in my own life.  But it's all destructive, all wounds and maims, all dishonors a Holy God, all is worthy of His wrath.  That's not my opinion; that's the Word of God.  All have sinned and fallen short, all are worthy of His wrath.  

In the end we shouldn't be surprised by the hatred in the hearts of whoever is responsible for Boston's grief.   It's the natural state of all men apart from Christ.  Just because all of us don't go bombing things doesn't mean our hearts are capable.  I think we've shown that they are. 

So praise God for His grace.  Praise God for the mercy and forgiveness shown in Christ.  May we be moved to pray that God would shower that grace on all those involved in this situation.  And may it motivate us to be even more fervent in our efforts to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Because gun laws and terrorist prevention and all the resources of this world can't stop this kind of thing from happening.  Only changed hearts, changed lives, grace washed souls will overcome the sin that is in us.