Monday, February 8, 2016

Getting What We Deserve

One of the young men who murdered my son's sixth grade teacher last year finally faced sentencing this past week.  To avoid facing a trial where the death penalty would be pursued he accepted a plea bargain.  He pled guilty and was sentenced to life plus 20 years with no chance for appeals.  In other words, he will never get out of prison.

I hope that this begins to bring some closure and healing for Ms. Mathewson's family and friends.  She was loved by so many.  She was a woman of great faith and her love for God spilled over into how she related to others.  Although our local newspaper (sadly) didn't focus too much on this aspect of the hearing....many of her loved ones, when given the chance to speak directly to her killer, offered forgiveness, and spoke of God's love for him.

What a contrast that was to the comments left in reaction to the online article reporting his sentencing...

-"Why on earth does this country allow people to live if they plea guilty, so taxpayers have to pay for this scumbags crime by keeping him for life. I think with DNA evidence murderers should be killed within 48 hrs."
-"Killing him would have been letting him off easy, now he will sit in jail for the rest of his life wishing that he was dead."
-"I hope he gets a shiv in the back while in prison."
-"Why is his life being spared and the tax payers will pay for him for the rest of his pathetic life???? Thats why these scum bags do as they please to who ever they please, the justice system isnt fair and prisons are over crowded"
-"Death would have been too easy. Where he is going for the rest of his worthless life will be like hell on earth ."

These are the mild reactions.  There were comments made that I cannot repeat here.  People were angry.  I get that.  I'm angry too that they took the life of this precious woman who was so full of love and enthusiasm.  And, yet reading the hate filled comments didn't make me feel any better, it just made me feel sick.

There were a couple of her loved ones...those who had the most right to be angry...who tried to re-focus the discussion

* "I was proud to be a friend of Nicole today. Her life was honored by the testimony of her friends in the courtroom, offering forgiveness in place of justice. Grace in place of anger. Love in place of hate.
Everybody needs compassion

A love that's never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everybody needs forgiveness
A kindness of a Savior
The Hope of nations"

* " I completely understand the response of the public, and as a close friend of Nicole's I feel similar emotions. But she would not approve of this hatred. It was against the very core of who she was: overcome evil with good. Read the transcript of this hearing - and you'll see what an amazing person nicole was by hearing from her family and close friends. This is where the rubber meets the road for Christians - to show God's grace in the face of extreme evil.

Today I was more proud than I've ever been to be a Christian and see the love of Christ triumph over absolute evil."

But their voices were barely heard through the continued noise of voices hungry for retribution and blood.

I've noticed a trend on social media.  It's a trend of judgement.  There is no mercy.  People should get what they deserve and then some.

I think it's in our nature to react this way.  A sense of justice is good...of wanting wrongs to be righted and situations to be redeemed.  Yes, God is a God of justice.  But our sinful nature causes this desire for justice to cross over into hatred, anger, bitterness, and a thirst for revenge.

God is also a God of mercy and compassion.  Not just for those who are 'good'.  But, for the worst of the worst among us.  He does not desire that ANY should perish.  Yes, even for the men who killed an innocent woman in her own home...who tortured her & did unspeakable things to her.  He longs for them to turn away from the wickedness that has entered their souls and to seek Him.  He longs for them to come to Him in repentance.  He longs to bring even them into his arms as cherished sons.

If God's love and mercy was only big enough to cover what we consider minor infractions....if his forgiveness was big enough only to cover those things...what power were there be in that??  It would be feeble & frail.  It would be unworthy of any notice.

The fact that God's love and mercy is big enough to cover IT ALL is a reflection of the vastness of His capacity to forgive and compassion.  It is deep and wide.  It is unending.  THAT is a God worthy of our worship.

We took communion this Sunday at church...a time of remembering the sacrifice that Jesus made willingly for US.  He stood innocent before judgement and accepted our guilt, our sin, our filth.  It was UNFAIR.  It was UNJUST.  And as a result WE were the recipients of mercy and grace.

I thought to myself, "Thank God I didn't get what I deserved.  God knows I deserved punishment and shame."  And, as I looked at my family I felt so humbled.  I did NOTHING to deserve the good things that I have in my life.

I am not saying that it is easy to forgive.  In fact, on our own it is impossible. And,  I'm not saying that we don't have to face the earthly consequences of our actions.

But, what I am saying is that we serve a God who is so mighty, so good, so perfect that it is beyond our comprehension.  And, if we seek to honor him here on earth, if we believe that he took our sins to the cross, then that should change forever how we look at other human beings....even those who 'deserve' our disgust.

We should remember..always remember...that thanks to the Grace of God we ourselves did not get what we deserve.

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