That could have been you in Orlando

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

As we gathered for church this past Sunday, most of us were unaware of the tragedy in Orlando, or at least the terrible extent of it. Now that we know how awful it was, our prayers go out to the families of the victims as they grieve, and we pray for the church in Orlando, that they might be a light in the darkness in the way they respond to this tragedy.

As we consider the terrible hatred and deception that could cause someone to open fire on a crowd of people, I want to share a story with you that I recently heard in a Tim Keller sermon. In 1983, Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes interviewed a man named Yehiel De-Nur, a survivor of Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp. Twenty-two years earlier, in 1961, De-Nur had testified at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the men primarily responsible for the holocaust. When De-Nur had entered the courtroom to testify against Eichmann, he had started to sob uncontrollably before collapsing. The judge had to restore order in the court after the commotion that ensued.

In the 60 Minutes interview, Wallace asked De-Nur what he had been feeling there in the court. Was it post-traumatic stress? Rage? De-Nur answered by saying that when he walked in and saw Eichmann, he suddenly realized that he was no demon. He was not a superman either. He was an ordinary human being, exactly like De-Nur. And suddenly De-Nur became terrified about himself. He told Wallace that he realized that he was capable of doing the exact same things.

Wow.

According to Ephesians 2, before we know Christ, we are dead in our sins. And in Romans 8:7, Paul declares that the sinful mind is hostile to God. The scary truth is that by nature, we are all capable of what that young man in Orlando did, or what Adolf Eichmann did. In fact, Jesus goes as far as to say that anyone who has ever been angry with his brother has committed murder in his heart (Matthew 5:21-22). According to Jesus, the seeds of murder exist in all of our hearts. If we grew up in an environment that watered those seeds through false teaching and twisted values, we might do the exact same terrible thing.

Why is this important to consider? It is so easy at a time like this to let such a senseless act of rage unwittingly stir in us a rage of our own towards the gunman, or towards Muslims. It is easy to feel superior, to believe that we could never do something as awful as what these people have done. But the gospel teaches us that if it were not for the grace of God, we would be capable of the same kind of evil, the same kind of murder. So instead of responding in hatred and pride, let us humble ourselves and consider Jesus’ exhortation to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and to say “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” May God help us to overcome evil with good, and to overcome hatred with love.

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