Preaching as War
7/20/12 at 10:17 AM 287 Comments

James Holmes, Average Man, Killer

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As everyone knows by now, James Holmes, 24, went to the opening of Batman, and shot 12 people dead in the theater. This event will dominate the news for a long time, no doubt. We will be treated to biographies of the dead and their families. There will be funerals. There will be Christian reactions. There will be political reactions. We will be told that violence in our movies is the cause, or that gun laws need to be stricter. We will be treated to a dozen theories of why James did this awful thing.

James Holmes did this because he is a normal man. We will say that he went nuts, and of course he did. But nuts in a very human manner. James Holmes killed those people because humans kill people. That’s what we do. We are murderers. We kill.

Being human, we naturally think too highly of ourselves to imagine that we are all killers. We think ourselves good. But we are killers, all of us. Do you need to be convinced? Let’s look at a few pieces of evidence. 12 people dead in a Colorado movie theater. “Wait, that’s just a freak thing. That doesn’t represent humanity.” Really? How about 7 Jews killed on a bus in Bulgaria a few days before that? “Islamic terrorists. Not many people do that. Doesn’t count!”

Okay, how about 50 Christians burned alive in Nigeria in the same week? “Islamists again. Not representative of all of us humans!” Okay, how about 1.4 million babies aborted in the United States last year? “Sure, play that card! Not everyone believes that is murder, you know! And some of us protest!” A nation that worries more about taxes and the price of gas than it does about 1.4 million babies killed inside of their mothers’ wombs are the perfect proof of the murderous heart of the average man. But it is time to bring out the definitive proof: the words of Jesus:

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER ' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” –Matthew 5

Jesus here explains to us the root of murder: anger in the human heart. All who have anger in the heart towards another has the evil seed of murder within. Therefore, any human, for all have anger, can have that evil stirred up into killing. Only the kindness of God keeps us from the circumstances needed to keep us from killing with our own hands. We are all, according to Jesus, murderers, and all guilty enough for a fiery hell. So, (in the words of the band POD) next time you look in the mirror “say hello to the bad guy.”

The first man born of woman killed the second man born of woman. It didn’t take long for the murderous seed to show itself, did it? The man who went into the theater to kill? A normal guy. He went to high school. He loved his mommy as a little boy. He enjoyed ice cream as a kid. He is a murderer. The people who strapped the bomb on the guy who blew up the Jews in Bulgaria? Normal men with normal women as wives and normal parents. Their ideology is twisted, but so are all the ideologies of mankind. We are twisted. They are normal men. The Nigerians who burned their fellow Nigerians? Normal. The Nazi soldiers who killed people in prison camps? Normal humans. The men who send men into war, and the men who kill in war? Normal. We are killers. I am a killer and so are you. Were it not for the kindness of God, causing us to be born in a nation where laws are mostly in force, or in a family of similar mindset, you and I would be right there with the millions of humans who kill each year throughout the world.

“The heart of man is desperately wicked.” This is what the prophet says. This is what we refuse to believe.

What then should we do in light of this reality?

First, we must see the beauty of our Savior, for He received the punishment, preventing the fiery hell that we deserve. The Gospel is the life changing message that changes the heart of a murderer into the heart of a life-giver. By faith in Jesus alone can a person be born again. We were “dead in our trespasses and sins” until God, because of the “great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ.” God takes the heart of stone out of us and gives us a living, heart of flesh. We must worship Jesus as the only hope for the world and for every individual. And we should die proclaiming Him to the nations.

Second, we should value the lives of humans over all things on earth. This might seem counter-intuitive in light of the reality that man is a killer. But we must remember that God says that we are fallen. We were made without sin, and in His image. Although we are no longer sinless, we have hope. By Jesus, we can be redeemed. No other creature on the earth has this potential or this heritage. We should protect human life, we should have lots of babies, we should value motherhood, we should declare the gospel to every creature.

Third, we should embrace the reality of punishment in this world and in eternity. This also might seem counter-intuitive. Yet, God makes it clear that the value of man, made in the image of God, requires punishment for sin. As He told all mankind when we began anew after the flood:

“And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it."

To do less than capitol punishment when there is murder is to say that the image of God is worth nothing. Punishment for murder is to be penal, not remedial. In other words, we are not to rehabilitate the killer, but punish him. As a Christian, we should also fight to have that killer hear the gospel and find forgiveness of sins before the punishment is administered.

Likewise, we must not devalue man nor God by diminishing hell to a place of remedial therapy. Recently, authors like Rob Bell, and bloggers like CP blogger of the month, George Sarris, have appealed to the Christian community to allow into orthodox Christian belief the idea that hell is remedial. In other words, hell is not about punishment, but about reform. Such nonsense can be discussed politely and should be. But it should not be considered to be within the realm of biblical Christianity for it is an insult to the cross and to humanity. Jesus takes a much higher view of image of God in man. He declares that those who call a human a name in anger are guilty enough for hell fire. Clearly then, I am first in line for hell! Heck, I am guilty a million times over just for road rage! But I am certain I am not alone. I am joined by all humanity.

However, this standard of punishment not only displays the holiness of God –how amazing is it that God respects His image even when it is found in sinful man! –but it also shows the value of man being made in God’s image. Our sins are more sinful than we could ever imagine. Remove all the graces God gives on this earth and we are all monsters, all instant killers in reality. And our sin is greater than that of any other creature because we are doing evil while bearing the image of God. Our punishment is just. Therefore, when Jesus fulfilled the Law, and the law of love, by dying in our place, He received real punishment which we deserved. If we do not find that mercy by faith in Jesus, we will be judged for our own deeds, and our punishment in hell is deserved.

It is no mystery to me, in our luke-warm society, that voices cry out for hell to be remedial instead of penal. This is the logical extension of the same low view of man and God held by the humanists, who tell us punishment for human crime is to be remedial and not penal –and because of that, our prisons are full. I fear hell will also be even more full if such thinking is heeded.

Finally, as we Christians process all this death around us, let us remember the life within is that of Jesus. Let us not fear or get nervous. We are on solid ground. Our words and homes are shelters in the storm for those of the world who need the safety of Jesus. Our inheritance is sure. We have been born again, made holy. Our old nature has been done away with on the cross. Thank God that killer who is me has been slain.

[authors post script: from the comments, some have assumed that this blog in some way belittled the evil of the act. On the contrary. Because this man killed innocent people, it is the most evil act possible on earth. Nothing is worse than murdering humans made in the image of God. for this reason, by the way, the punishment should fit the crime. Along the same lines, my prayers for the families of the victims is the comfort our great God gives. Dark and difficult days are ahead for them, and this man had no right to take from them what he did.]

[POST SCRIPT 2, Interesting to note that the opinion piece by Al Mohler here on the Christian Post explains so very well --much better than me-- the point that all men are evil in their hearts, everyone a potential killer because of the murder in the heart. I recommend reading it. Here is a small sample:

"Second, we must be thankful for restraints on moral evil. Christians must not underestimate the potential of any human being - ourselves included - to commit moral horror. We know ourselves to be sinners, and we know ourselves to be capable of sins we do not actually commit. Why do we not commit them?
God restrains human sinfulness. If the fullness of human sin was set loose, humanity would destroy itself. God restrains human evil by several means. First, he has created us in his image, and at least part of this image is what we call conscience. The moral conscience is a powerful restraint on human evil, and for this we must be exceedingly thankful. At the same time, the human conscience is also warped by the Fall and no longer fully trustworthy. We have developed the capacity to ignore the conscience, torture the conscience, and even misdirect the conscience by moral rationalization. Nevertheless, the restraint of the conscience is fundamental, and for that we must be very thankful."


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