Think Again: No Longer Bound
You may recall me telling the story of being in a country some years ago where I was introduced to a man who had a daily habit of taking his little boy up a hill. The man would point over the border and tell his son, “Your duty in life is to kill as many of them on the other side as you can.”
Even today it is hard for me to comprehend this. Tragically, this man could never shut the gate on the past. And so he dragged the heavy carcass of historical prejudice and draped that corpse over the shoulders of the next generation as a reminder to continue the carnage.
Sadly, we discover the seeds of hate and separation in the opening pages of Scripture and within the very first family. Incredibly, the first murder in the Bible did not occur because of two irreconcilable political theories. The murder of a man by his own brother was an act unmistakably borne out of their differing responses to God! Trapped by the temporal, Cain was deluded by the belief that he could vanquish spiritual reality with brute force. God saw the inevitable result of the jealousy and hatred deep within Cain’s heart, and in a challenge that would determine his destiny, warned him to deal with it. “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).
Tragically, Cain ignored God’s words, and taking matters into his own hands, he killed his brother Abel.
As extreme as these life experiences may sound, who of us has not struggled with anger, forgiveness, and pride? Yet we are called as followers of Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves and to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Why? Because Scripture tells us that every life is valuable to God: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb,” uttered the psalmist David. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139: 13-14).
At its core life is sacred and of inestimable value, whether it is the life of a darling child in the fresh blossom of childhood, or the life of an elderly, weak, and frail recluse. We are each made in God’s sacred image. Think of this truth! That is why murder is described in Scripture for what it is: an attack upon God’s image. That is also why we are told, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Murder and even hateful words are attempts to destroy God’s image in another and to deny one’s value and spiritual essence. It is that essence which gives us our dignity and our worth. It is that essence which is our glory and true home.
I find it quite remarkable that Jesus did not specifically address some of the pressing social issues of his day. Rather, he went to the heart of what separates us from God and what transforms: we are sinners in need of God’s cleansing forgiveness and restoration.
The truth is, we desperately need a Savior, every one of us, whatever our past and whatever our present. We need a God who not only changes what we do, but what we want to do. Scripture promises that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). No longer are we bound by chains of the past, never to shut the gate. Rather, if we are in Christ, we are filled with God’s Spirit and “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
What a hope and what a promise!