The Murderer In All of Us

Two recent news items have drawn my attention to thoughts about murder. The first was the pastor’s wife who shot her husband and the second was the largest mass murder in US history, the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

In many ways they were the typical American family. All smiles… and matching outfits… and horror that apparently lay just beneath the surface of anyone’s suspicions. So how did we get from “perfect family” to the events of that March day in 2006? How could a woman shoot her husband in the middle of his back with a shotgun?

Then – perhaps somewhat ironically – during the week of Mary Winkler’s trial, a young man wakes up shoots two classmates, mails a videotape rant about how much he hates Christianity (among other things) and proceeds to kill 30 more and injure a dozen or so others before turning a gun on himself. Where does this come from?

My first instinct is the same as yours. I want (desperately) to believe that this kind of madness comes from some terribly dark and unfamiliar place. When I strip all the verbiage away, I am frightened to know a different answer. These two days of shame come from the same place… the depravity of man. But Mary Winkler and Cho Seung-Hui started in the same place that each of us begins. They were people. Humans trying to live life and wrestle with issues that please us and plague us… at times simultaneously. So what happened?

Sin happens.

It happens to Mary and Cho and Rob and you. It is dark and sinister and causes us to be capable of things that we never wanted to think were possible. So perhaps we already know the answer to the question of “what happened?” Maybe a better question for each of us is… “Will I take that sick feeling that is in my gut when I watch and read of these things and turn it on my own sinful choices?”

Though sin visits all of us (the book of Romans reminds us that no one is good), the better question is, “What am I going to do about it?” The beauty of my situation is that it is my situation. Sinful choices are simply that… they are choices. I may not like that. But I know it intuitively and by my own experiences. Sin does not choose me. Rather, I choose to sin. So the fact is that there is a murderer in all of us. We are one bad decision away from becoming that horrible person that we watch and read about and loathe.

May the loathing continue. But may it turn away from Mary and Cho and turn to sin and wicked choices. And may the hope in this situation be that with the power of Christ I have a choice! I can resist sin. What a beautiful reality. On my own… I am nothing… and potentially worse. But with the power of Christ I can overcome sin. Thanks be to God.

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