A senseless killing of a police officer at Virginia Tech…in Greensboro a mistress abandoned after a four year adulterous relationship with a married man kills her own children, relatives and friends, and wounds him before taking her own life…a murder trial of a Durham man for robbing and killing a UNC co-ed simply because he needed cash and did not want to leave any witnesses…all of these have been in the headlines over the past two weeks!
People express their shock and outrage at such callous indifference to human life, such cold-hearted disregard for the lives of those killed and the pain for loved ones left behind. Questions float around unanswered as people try to make sense of the senseless.
But should we be surprised? Why is our culture still astounded by the endless cycle of violence, the murderous rampages that seem to occur with alarming frequency across the world…and in our own neighborhoods? The reason for the questions is this. When people are taught and conditioned to believe that life is nothing more than a cosmic accident and that human life has no inherent value, no defining ultimate purpose, the real surprise is that there is not more abandonment of hope and a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality being acted out in a culture being stripped of its soul.
The saving grace in all this can be found in two things–the hypocrisy that affirms one set of beliefs but lives another, and the common grace of a loving God who continues to exercise patience with a world filled with people who deserve the consequences they have brought upon themselves. Let me explain.
Hypocrisy — Christians are the usual suspects for this charge…and sad to say, rightly so! We who profess to know and follow Jesus Christ fall off the path with enough regularity that those observing our walk see glaring inconsistencies with our walk. But that is the subject for another time. The hypocrisy of which I speak arises from a culture that teaches its young that they are alive only because of some ‘big bang’ that set in motion a series of evolving events which led to their accidental existence. No intelligent design is behind life in this world and what we have now as a world population is the result of natural selection and survival of the fittest. But when people put that belief into practice, we scratch our heads, befuddled at what could be behind their calculated madness and the practical application of the ‘doctrine’ of natural selection. So, for all the outrage, there appears to be little connection in the minds of the masses that ideas have consequences. The official party line teaches that life does not matter (or more often is the case, they just cannot find a legitimate way to justify their assertion that it does matter based on their overall worldview). Granted, murderous actions are seldom preceded by careful philosophical consideration, but when the world around the murderers appears to give them no reason to respect or value life, their choices seem appropriate in the moment they make them.
Common Grace — The second aspect of this issue that helps explain our outrage when human life is destroyed is that God has delayed His judgment and kept alive a people He created in His own image. Something of the Imago Dei, the image of God, survives in all of us. Although we as a culture may agree intellectually that man has no significance beyond that of a surviving species in an evolutionary cycle, something inside us tells us that cannot be right. People should matter. We should matter. Life should matter. We know that even if our cultural conclusions contradict what our hearts tell us.
Into this arena, we who know and love the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ must interrupt the confusion with a word of hope. We are, in fact a created people…created for a purpose by a good and glorious God who has designed us and established a right way for us to fulfill that purpose and find satisfaction and joy in life. We have an answer that addresses the evil of murder–sinful people do sinful things that we can declare to be wrong without fear of contradiction. Pity the poor folks who know something is wrong but cannot bring themselves to say it because their worldview prevents such a conclusion and declares it out of bounds to call evil by its name.
So here is to an authentic life! Believe what is true and then live that way! See in the common grace of God the extraordinary potential that is fulfilled in the special, saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Just a final note…just because we can understand the connection between a vacuous worldview and a violent culture, that does not mean we can choose to remain unmoved by the human suffering that results from that worldview being followed to its logical conclusions. We are servants of the Living God and have been given a message of hope to declare to all who will hear…that God has said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,’ and that His love for us is demonstrated perfectly and ultimately in sending His Son into this wacky world to save us from ourselves, our empty ideas, our failed plans and our sin of unbelief in the One who made all things good.
As Christmas arrives, may our hope speak a word of reason and revelation to those around us. Our God loves and our God saves! Jesus really is the only answer that makes sense in a fallen world!