Sin Kills

Sin Kills

posted in Blog, Life in General | Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, after returning from a much longer than expected meeting, Nancy and I sat down for a late lunch. That’s when we heard the helicopters circling overhead. I love helicopters, but when they’re circling over your neighborhood it’s usually not a good sign. Our house seemed to be on the outer edge of their loop and after a few passes it was quiet again.

Following our short meal, Nancy checked her Facebook page and saw a post from our oldest son, Ian, that a good friend of his had just been found murdered in Columbus, Georgia – the area where our kids live. Heath Jackson, 25, was a musician and a program director/disc jockey at a new Christian radio station in Columbus. More importantly, he was someone’s son, someone’s brother, and someone’s friend. He and Ian had worked together in YoungLife, a campus ministry to high school students, and had done some weekend radio programs together. Heath was scheduled to play guitar last night for a community worship gathering at the church my other son and daughter-in-law attend. From the news reports I’ve seen, it seems clear that Heath loved Jesus and wanted others to know Him.

Sometime between 1:00 and 1:30 yesterday afternoon, Heath discovered an intruder burglarizing his home. The thief shot him and fled. Heath was found dead in the driveway.

My stomach turned at the news. I can’t imagine the sickening grief his parents and siblings must be experiencing.

Sometimes, at least partially, we get a glimpse of what sin really looks like. We see the perverse sickness rather than the attracting temptation. No one has to tell us that this is not the way it’s supposed to be.

The whole problem started long, long ago in a garden when two people who had every reason to know better chose to believe a lie – that God was holding out on them. What started out with eating a forbidden piece of fruit escalated into murder within one generation. One of their son’s was dead, the other was the killer.

And all these years later, we still keep believing the lie. All of us. We believe that we have a better idea of what’s good for us than God has. We steal what rightfully belongs to God to satisfy what we want. He created us (whether we acknowledge it or not) and we rightfully belong to Him. But each of us, in a multitude of situations, have made decisions to disbelieve His goodness and ignore His authority. We want to believe our sins are minor (like eating fruit) and bad people’s sins are major (like murder). I don’t deny there are differences in scale. I would much rather have someone insult me than kill me. Still, the difference is in scale, not in kind. All sin, in one way or another, is rebellion against God. And sin separates people from God. Not “major” sin. Sin, period.

Murder strips the mask off of sin. It stirs in us a gut level cry for justice. Murder is serious in the extreme. God told Noah (recorded in Genesis, chapter nine), “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” The offense is not just against people, it is primarily against God, in whose image people are made.

We have a longing for justice and an expectation that God, by his very nature,  should be fair. But that true justice and true fairness condemns us all because we’ve all sinned. We can’t undo our sin anymore than the murderer can undo his murder. God knew this way before any of us ever realized the seriousness of what we have done.

Ultimately, sin carries a death penalty. God is just, and the penalty will be paid, one way or another. If we wanted to, we couldn’t pay the penalty for someone else because we’re guilty ourselves. We can’t pay off the judge. We can’t just pile up a bunch of “good things” to try to outweigh the “bad things”. The situation would be hopelessly bleak if it wasn’t for one thing – that God himself came to us to provide a rescue, a substitution, so that we could be free from our death sentence to have life – true life – with him forever. Because of his love for us, he willfully and intentionally stepped in and offered himself  (the only perfect substitute) as a sacrifice and payment for our crime. He submitted himself into the hands of murderers so that we would have the option to live. Justice is fully met and love is fully expressed. The Bible says it like this: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  It also says: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Jesus made the ultimate payment for us, and he did some other things as well. He introduced a kingdom, the kingdom of God, that is very, very different than the kingdoms we know. He showed us in “real world” flesh and blood what God is like. He rose from the grave (with numerous witnesses) and then ascended to Heaven to rule, to reign, and to prepare a place for all who truly turn to him.

Heath believed that Jesus was who he said he was and trusted Christ to forgive his sins – knowing that the penalty for his own sin had been paid in full by Jesus. Today Heath is with Jesus. I am praying that the man who murdered Heath will come to see his own sin for what it really is, will see God for who He really is, and will truly turn to Jesus for the only real hope of life and forgiveness that any of us have.

You and I do not know the day that we will die. I’m sure that Heath did not expect yesterday to be his day. But there is something we can know – something that Heath knew – that we can turn to Christ, accept the forgiveness he offers and the payment he made for us to live forever with him as his loved ones, in his care, in his eternal kingdom.

The TV was on when the five o’clock news explained the mystery of the helicopters we heard at lunch. A sixty year old woman was found violently murdered in a neighborhood not far from ours. I sure hope she’s with Jesus right now in a kingdom very different from this one.

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