Like Lambs to Slaughter

blog - newtown massacreWatch a group respond to tragedy and it will tell you a great deal about how that group sees the world.

This past Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, was indeed a tragedy.  And while our country, like any country, has gone through many tragedies, this one had something raw, something previously unseen.  Pearl Harbor and 9/11 and Oklahoma City and Virginia Tech were tragedies, but we sense something different in them being attacks on soldiers and grown adults and college students.  For that matter even Columbine, which felt closest to what happened in Newtown, CT, was a massacre of teenagers.  And while no one would doubt it was horrific, we’ve all been teenagers.  We’ve witnessed firsthand (and perhaps still feel some pain from the memories of) the evil that teenagers are capable of.  When “bullies” die, we’re sad, but we don’t scratch our heads.

In several ways, Newtown is unusual, at least for this time and space in history.

Like all of you, this past Friday I was saddened and angered by the murders.  And, of course, I’m sympathetic to the families and the victims.  What additionally saddened me, as a pastor and Christian, however, was the media coverage.  And it wasn’t so much the fact that media coverage at a moment like this always feels a bit exploitative.  Fair or unfair, I’ve always gotten the impression that every news anchor, as well as those interviewed, at least in tone, seem to feel a need to express how they personally are the most saddened by the events, for fear that they might sound callous if they don’t.  No, the new wrinkle that troubled me this time was the ongoing line-up of “experts” – doctors and psychologists and politicians – who were brought in by each media outlet to comment on “Why?”  Everyone wants to know how something like this could ever happen.

The experts generally responded by saying something to the effect of, “Well, maybe Adam Lanza wasn’t loved enough as a child.”  Or “Maybe we need tighter gun control policies.”  Or “Maybe we need to beef up our security in our public school system.”  And please understand, I’m not at all trying to dismiss these as legitimate concerns and valuable talking points moving forward.  But I think the country senses that these are answers that only scratch the surface.  It eats me alive as a pastor that such feeble attempts to answer the question “Why?” are given, when the answer has been sitting there the entire time.

The Bible states the reality that our world refuses to admit: We are ALL killers responsible for the murder of a man named Jesus.  “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth……was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:22-23)

By God’s grace and providence, I was scheduled this past Sunday to preach on the Luke 1 account of Mary (the Annunciation from the Angel, her visit to Elizabeth, and her Magnificat).  Mary is an interesting character.  But perhaps even more interesting than Mary herself is the misconception that hundreds of millions have about Mary.  I was reminded of this recently as I reread through historian Paul Maier’s In the Fullness of Time.  In it (pg. 86), he informs readers that in 1854, Roman Catholicism officially defined Mary as both sinless and immaculately conceived, and in 1950, it declared her bodily assumption into heaven.  This is incredibly strange in that the Bible so clearly paints Mary as a sinner.  Mary, trembling from fear, was “greatly troubled” in the presence of God’s holy messenger Gabriel (Luke 1:29).  And then, when she bursts into her joyful Magnificat, she refers to God as “my Savior” (Luke 1:47).  And yet, despite her own testimony to the contrary, so many are still inclined to consider her sinless and perfect.  Apparently there is something inside of us human beings that is delusional about how sinful we really are as a species.

Therefore, when experts roll in with their theories about “Why” the Newtown murders happened, they’re missing the most fundamental explanation – Adam Lanza is capable of horrific murder because, as part of the human race, we are all in fact guilty of horrific murder.  Ironically, one of the most dangerous things about us is a sociopathic refusal to see that truth.

If you were to poll the majority of American citizens, I’m sure most of them would tell you that they are entirely incapable of murder.  However, consider this: since Roe v. Wade (1973), there have now been an estimated 50 million plus abortions, a number which doesn’t even include some methods Christians would categorize as abortive.  A little quick arithmetic would tell you that this amounts to approximately 3,512 legally induced abortions/day in the US.  No media coverage has been given, at least that I’m aware of.  In the Newtown massacre, 20 first graders died (and 8 adults).  Tragic?  Of course.  But this points us to what should be an obvious societal inconsistency.  It’s much like what we’ve seen in Britain in recent weeks.  A prince has a baby and the whole world rejoices.  And yet, the number one cause of death in Britain is abortion.  Delusional.

Quite honestly though, this post is really not about abortion.  I’ve already written about the issue recently.  No, this post is about how blind we are to how sinful we are.

There’s been a link floating around on social media recently citing things from the past year that “restored our faith in humanity.”  I have no faith in humanity.  I have faith in one man, who happened to be God himself.  In the form of Jesus, God, as a man infinitely more innocent than a first grader, took our bullet.  He carried our ultimate sorrow so that crap like what happened Friday can someday come to an end.

(Adapted from 12.16.12 sermon at Resurrection)

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6 thoughts on “Like Lambs to Slaughter

  1. Chris Grabow says:

    Overall a great read, Pastor Hein, and as usual I agree with most of what you say…but as a Staunch Papist ;D I will have to take issue with the issue of Mary…

    Very important distinction that you seem to have missed–
    Roman Catholics DO believe that Mary had a Savior- her Son Jesus Christ- just like the rest of us. We believe through God’s unique design that Mary was preserved from Original Sin, through the merits of Christ’s salvific death on the cross, even before His death on the cross took place in time –> the Immaculate Conception. An odd design, maybe, but certainly not impossible for God Almighty, who exists out of the constraints of time and can certainly do as He pleases. She is, as we all are, a creature who was saved by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Is it delusional to think that God would want a perfect, sinless person to be the tabernacle in which His Son would dwell for 9 months? To me, it is unthinkable to think otherwise (then again, I’m a cradle Catholic.)

    And I would be interested to know where in the Bible she is “clearly painted as a sinner”. I see no Biblical record of her sinning; to say that she was “greatly troubled” indicates this is too much of a stretch for me.
    It does not seem out of the realm of possibility that even a person who is sinless might be “greatly troubled” by the sudden appearance of an angel (a 14-year-old Jewish girl, going about her business, angel Gabriel shows up….it would be a shocker, I think.)
    Additionally, the first thing the angel says is “Hail, full of grace”— a greeting which would seem out of place to say the least, had she been a sinner (as you assert).

    I know I won’t convince you of any of this, but I had to throw it out there… 😀 I’m sure most Protestants think we Catholics just make this stuff up, but there really is a method to our madness (even if you don’t agree with it!)

    • Jerry says:

      Chris, I was a Catholic for a long time and my comment should be viewed in the most loving way. The immaculate conception of Mary’s mother and Mary’s assumption into heaven are things we might logically assume or reason. The Bible is silent on those issues though. It is OK not to have every answer. God gives us what we need to know. We should not look for man-made answers coming at us from outside of scripture. Scripture is God breathed and pure. Mary was indeed full of grace. The grace bestowed upon her by a gift of God, not of her own merit. I will pray for your way forward.

    • Hi Chris,
      I’m SO sorry to take so long in getting back to you in responding. Things are finally slowing down now after the holidays 🙂

      I’ll try to reply as briefly but as completely as I can:

      1) Mary’s Magnificat is Mary’s own personal confession of sin – “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46). She would have no basis for calling God “my Savior” unless she needed saving. The inspired language is very clear. She does not say “the Savior” nor “a Savior” but “my Savior”. Savior in what sense? The same sense it’s used throughout the Bible – the Savior saves us from our sins – 1 Tim. 1:15 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”

      2) It is not delusional to think that God would have a holy vessel in which his Son would dwell. It is, however, unbiblical. Throughout the Bible, God consistently works holiness through sin and even through his sinful creatures. Consider this. Throughout John’s Gospel, Jesus is referred to as “the Word”. Every Bible scholar will agree that this is reference to the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. So, how did we get the Word? Through the sinless hands and voices of prophets? No, through the sinful hands of prophets. God took a holy, perfect message and brought it into the world through the pens of sinful writers. It is no different with the Word who was made flesh, Jesus. God took his holy Son, and brought him into the world through a flawed woman who called God “my Savior.” There’s nothing inconsistent, illogical, or unbiblical about that.

      3) Roman Catholic doctrine doesn’t strike me as madness at all. In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. In some places I find it too logical (i.e. in the sense of trying too hard to fit in the framework of finite human logic). My problem with Roman Catholic doctrine is more one of authority, which you and I have had some good talks on before. RC doctrine is not based solely on Scripture (the one thing I believe is flawless). It’s based on both Scripture and the declarations of Church leadership (which is proven flawed). For anyone who doubts the flawlessness of the Bible, they shouldn’t trust any of it then, because it proclaims itself to be inspired and flawless. For anyone who doubts the fallibility of church leadership, they simply can do a little historical research and find out (or hang out with a pastor like me for a while 🙂 haha) For any who are interested, I tried to explain this extensively in a post from several weeks ago (http://wp.me/pIDP5-ru).

      Thanks for your thoughts and let me know if you have any follow up questions/comments. I PROMISE I won’t take a month to respond this time 🙂

  2. “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Would it not make sense for God to “choose” a sinner to be the mother of Jesus, as Jesus was sent to live on earth as a man – and as a man be exposed to all of the sinfulness around him. Obviously, he did what we can’t do – lived a perfect life on earth without falling prey to the sin around him.

  3. Sara says:

    If Mary was sinless, wouldn’t her parents have to be sinless also? Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3:6) Was not even Rahab the prostitute an ancestor of Jesus?

    The fact that God included a prostitute in the family line of His Son demonstrates His love for us sinners (and His willingness to get His hands dirty in the process). Mary was certainly blessed to be chosen to carry God’s Son into the world. But no more blessed than you or I who have been made holy through His blood.

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