Doc Carrier, retired from practicing medicine at the university, was part of our church when I was going to college. He was tall and stately, with white hair and a matching small mustache. We had a lot of discussions. I clearly remember one thing he said. “Mark it down. Man is a killer.” He was obviously disillusioned about the concept that man is basically good. After going through two world wars – each of which claimed the lives of multiplied millions of people – having seen the ongoing reports of murders, as well as having studied history all the way back to Cain, it was not surprising that he came to his grim conclusion.
But there are a lot of nice people who aren’t killers, aren’t there? Let me tell you the stories of two nice people I knew when I pastored a church in Kansas. They were friends of mine who after they had built trust in me told me about things in their past. One had been a pilot in WWII. He was flying his plane in Japan when he spotted a man riding a bicycle. He said he had built up such a hatred for the Japanese that he instinctively dropped the nose of his plane toward the man and fired a burst of shots. He had since repented and put his faith in Christ’s salvation and knew he had been forgiven. But his memories still haunted him.
The other man had been in Viet Nam. It was the night after a firefight. In the darkness a small girl who had been mortally wounded with no medical attention was wailing. The sound was too much for my friend. He went to her, saw her condition, and ended it with a round from his firearm. He said it was mercy, but he never got over it.
Both of these were nice people. Both were killers. Who would have known? We cannot tell what is really in a person. Except we know what God says. He says that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. And He also said, “Thou shalt not kill.”
Theories abound about the Las Vegas shooter. Why did he do it? Was he radicalized? Did he “snap”? How about this for an answer: he was a deceitful, wicked man who broke God’s law. In all of the reporting and the theorizing and the posts, there is hardly any mention of the fact that this man broke God’s law.
We hear that he was monstrous, a murderer, an evil man. But why is he worse than the abortionist who kills hundreds of innocent lives? Why is he worse than those in Chicago where over fifty people a month are killed on the streets. The world seems to have selective outrage when it comes to killing.
When I was pastor in Kansas, a young man from our youth group went to the public school and told other students about the message he had heard the night before. It became controversial. Students were upset at the message. They argued with the student. Some teachers heard the argument and said it was disruptive to education. The student was told he could not talk about those kinds of things in the school. When I heard about it, I called the school. One official told me that students were to leave their religion at the door of the school. I asked what part? Did they want to leave “thou shalt not steal” at the door? What about “thou shalt not kill?” The official did not have a good answer, but insisted that church things be not talked about in school. The school had selected God right out of their buildings but wanted to keep some of His laws in effect. Like don’t steal, or don’t cheat on the test, or certainly don’t kill (except if a girl needed an abortion, then the school counselor could override that commandment).
One judge, on ruling that a public display of the Ten Commandments was un-constitutional, claimed that a student might have a “religious” thought on seeing the commandments. It may have been a good thing if the Las Vegas shooter had had a religious thought. But he obviously didn’t. “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Ps. 10:4).
Much of our society is barreling through life without a thought of God. They either don’t know about His commandments or they deliberately ignore them. But people cannot nullify them. They stand. Etched in stone by the finger of God. They have a purpose: to show us that we all have sinned. No one has kept the commandments. So we all stand guilty before God. But someone says, “I have never killed anyone.” But if you have detested someone in your heart, the Bible says you are a murderer. “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).
The commandments show how sinful we really are. And they are there to take us to the cross. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). The reason unbelieving judges and secular school officials do not want to have the commandments is that they bring people to see their need of a savior. They point to Christ.
The world hates Jesus. He said, “Me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7b). People do not like to be reminded that they are not good. Most argue that they are “a good person.” What we can affirm is that everyone is valuable. But there is a difference between being valuable and being good. Sinners are not good people. They are evil. But they are valuable and loved. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
Jesus was on the cross, His back shredded from thirty-nine stripes, His features marred from the beatings the night before, His brow pierced with thorns made by crass guards, His hands and feet pierced with nails, yet He thought of those who had done it all to Him. “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” The centurion had overseen it all. He had heard it all. It brought him to see who Jesus really was. “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mk. 15:39b). The thief who had repented on the cross found forgiveness as Jesus was dying. But after Christ died, this Roman soldier was the first convert. He found salvation at the very cross on which he had crucified Jesus.
Despite our sins, we can find forgiveness when we come to Christ. He died for us so that we can live. Not just now. Forever.