Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fill up God-voids

At home, I rarely have my television on, but Monday I was out of town and turned on FOX news in our motel room. When I heard the breaking-news-words, I experienced trepidation.

As you already know, Monday’s grim news reported a school shooting in an Amish community, the third school in seven days to have violent fatalities on property dedicated to higher learning. Violence in the place of knowledge. Violence near a playground. Violence near the heart of Americans.

Violence, killing, and hatred are woven into the human fabric, but I’m ready to start some unraveling. How about you? In the earliest family in the Garden of Eden, Adam, Eve, Cain and Able were separated when Cain, in a jealous rage, slew his brother Able. Thousands of years later, we’re still puzzled that anyone could assign themselves the role of robbing life from another.

In an interview on Dateline NBC, notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was asked what he felt while committing his crimes? His reply: “I felt that I didn’t have to be accountable to anyone,” he said. “Since man came from slime, I was accountable to no one.” If you followed Jeffrey’s story, you know that in prison he eventually came to a belief in God and had remorse for his horrific crimes.

Recently, I read Dark Journey Deep Grace a book by Roy Ratcliff (with Lindy Adams) about Jeffrey Dahmer’s prison life after his sentencing. Minister Roy Ratcliff was told that Jeffrey Dahmer wanted to be baptized and while arranging for that to take place, he had weekly studies with Jeffrey, before and after his baptism. When God filled voids in Jeffrey’s life, he began to respect life again, his life and the lives of others.

Hate of self or others is complex, and that kind of hate takes supernatural intervention to turn a soul from evil to good purposes. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. Easy to write. Easy to say, but it’s impossible to do on our own. But, when God calls us to love a neighbor or a serial killer, he then equips us to carry out the command. How?

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He offers help and rest to nominal Christians, to those who hate, those who suffer depression, guilt, or sorrow so profound their chests feel like 80 pounds of cement. His invitation is for those who have wearied of living, to those who have wearied of taking one more breath.

Jesus’ solution is supernatural. It goes beyond the love a human being can muster for a spouse, child or neighbor. When Jesus pardons an individual’s sins, he moves in, abides with that person for a better future. He sticks closer than a brother, and he brings God’s kind of love with him—a limitless amount of out-of-this world compassion for fellowmen.

Jesus didn’t just preach love messages. He lived them out by embracing lepers. He forgave adulterers. He taught us not to pick at a neighbor’s splinter when we need to take care of a two-by-four problem of our own. And one of his finest lessons came while he was dying at the hands of the wicked. From his death-cross, even in agony, he expressed forgiveness to those who sanctioned his innocent death. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

A God-void produces an empty space that can become a devil’s workshop. But Jesus is ready to move into empty places, relieve disillusionments and instill a healthy respect for life—respect that allows doing good to a neighbor not harm.

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