Today was one of those days you’d like to hit the delete key.
I’m a school nurse. You can imagine, I hear some sad stories. Some are heartbreaking, some are a shame, some are just so much foolishness.
Today involved CPS, a criminal investigation and one of the most vulnerable little girls on our campus. While caseworkers and cops paraded about interviewing everyone in sight, I wept in the clinic. The afternoon was devoted to thinking of all the various ways to inflict damage via bandage scissors ensuring a certain perpetrator would never hurt another innocent child again.
Sometimes, it just hurts to breathe–
There’s just no way to let something like this go. The man who harmed this child harmed everyone who knew and loved her. Collectively we grieved today, separately we gnashed our teeth and blamed ourselves for not being omniscient demi-gods with the power to rewind the clock. We pointed fingers, assigned blame, looked backwards with perfect 20/20 clarity and thought of a thousand ways any one of us might have prevented this if we’d just been a wee bit more suspicious.
This evening, I had myself a nice little rant-fest directed at the Almighty.
Why? Why didn’t someone protect her? How on earth did they get away with this without anyone noticing? Oh and, by the way—why are the wicked free to roam around, picking off the vulnerable like prey in the first place? Why don’t You come on back already and put a stop to this, we’re getting slaughtered down here!
Dear God above, please make this stop–
Right in the big middle of my righteous indignation, I saw Jesus during His thirty-three years walking about our fallen planet. With a clarity that bespoke divine intervention, I saw the crowd around him, liberally sprinkled with murderers, pedophiles, thieves, and adulterers cleverly disguised as upstanding citizens.
Solomon wrote that there is nothing new under the sun. And while surely wickedness has increased as we approach His second coming, none of the sins around us are anything new. Which leads logically to the conclusion that, in His oneness with the Almighty, Jesus had to know that murderers and rapists and child abusers were lurking about, carrying on their evil and yet, never once did he threaten to castrate anyone with bandage scissors.
In my semi-hysterical frame of mind, this seemed a bit odd.
And then I remembered—He came the first time around as the sacrifice for sin. He saw each and every one He met as a candidate for forgiveness, no matter how wicked.
He did not come to condemn the world. He came to save the world. He called them all to repentance. The rapists and the murderers and the pedophiles and the thieves and whores and gossips and gluttons. He came to save them. He did not come for the righteous, He came for the wicked because they were the ones who needed a physician.
Someday, He will come again as the Lion and all this evil and the suffering that rides shotgun will end. But in the meantime, Jesus died—on purpose—to save sinners. All the pitchforks in the world will not save our society—it will not fix one damn thing. Only rebirth and repentance can transform evil. In the meantime, we are all given the space and time to repent.
So am I saying we just need to forgive the criminals and move on? Not hardly.
I’m saying that my desire to inflict harm on one shameful sinner would not change a thing. But what would this world look like if those who did their evil in darkness repented and brought forth works of repentance? What if we stopped pretending that everything is a-okay, that all the nice looking folks are just exactly what they look like on the surface and start calling sinners to repent?
True Story (with possible omission in detail because it’s been awhile)—
A young man from my hometown robbed a convenience store. He shot and killed the clerk and did not get caught. Not long after, this murderer accepted Christ and experienced a radical rebirth. Old things passed away. He spent every moment of his life trying to make up for his crime. He preached to the young people in town, warning them against alcohol and drugs. He became a youth pastor. He married and became a father and loving husband. He preached Jesus and repentance and salvation through Christ alone. And he kept his secret for years.
Then one day, he did something totally unexpected, something that made headlines all over the place. This upstanding citizen walked into the police station and turned himself in. He left his church, his wife and his sons to go to prison for the foreseeable future. He told his stunned friends and family who clearly thought he’d lost his last marbles that he could no longer live with himself.
You see, words alone were not enough. Works alone are not enough. This young man knew a secret and bravely worked out his own salvation with fear and trembling.
Following repentance, those who harm others must make restitution in kind. When John said to bring forth works of repentance, this is what he meant. When Zachias said he would pay back everything he stole, this is why. He didn’t offer to clean the temple, teach Bible Study or go to counseling. He gave back what he took and compensated his victims for their loss by giving extra.
This young man brought forth works of repentance. The very real change inside his heart eventually burst forth in fruits of righteousness. He did the right thing. He gave peace to the family of his victim, he admitted his guilt, he accepted the judgment of the society in which he lived and paid the price because it was the right thing to do.
What must I do to be saved?
Ever wonder why Jesus told folks to go do things when they asked this question? Sell all you have and give it to the poor seems to conflict with salvation by grace alone. And yet, how can anyone who’s heart has truly been reborn into the Kingdom of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness sit all comfortable, year after blessed year, right there in the hog wallow of their former existence filled with adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like? It absolutely makes no sense.
Furthermore, is it even possible for those dead in trespasses and sin to do anything so contrary to their nature as going to prison for a crime they got away with years ago?
So what if we stopped pretending that evil does not exist and start calling the wicked to repentance? What if the power of God to save the lost broke forth mightily and those who commit atrocities in darkness came to the light and experienced the life-changing power of regeneration?
Ida Mae spends some time repenting—Again
I was wrong. I would’ve called fire down out of heaven and turned the man who harmed my little friend into a pile of rubble. You see, while I was sharpening my scissors, I forgot that whoever hurt my sweet little student is someone’s son. Someone’s brother, someone’s father, someone’s husband. Someone, somewhere loves that man despite what he’s done.
God loves that man.
So now, I’m praying he will be exposed so he will not harm another child. I pray that he will repent and the power of God will transform his life, taking him out of the realm of darkness and into the light of the Kingdom of Heaven. I pray he will one day call others to repentance.
I repent of my hard-heartedness but, dadgumit, I will also stop pretending that evil cannot possibly lurk about in perfectly respectable looking packages and tell anyone who’ll listen that Jesus died to save the worst of these.
This gospel of the Kingdom must be preached again and that’s just all there is to it.
This was written awhile back but the emotions ran too high at the time to post. I’ve edited out the multiple exclamation marks and such but if it seems a bit raw, my apologies. Furthermore, it’s not meant as a theological exposition–just a moment of epiphany after a very long day.