January 09, 2008

Resolved (Day 6)

Today was a great day. On this day, nine years ago, Jennifer Lynn Virtue was crazy enough to agree to marry me in front of a couple hundred witnesses. Back then it was three inches of ice on the ground. Today was just the aftermath of twelve hours of tornadoes. I don't know that there is an analogy there – just a statement that things are always interesting (at least weather wise) around our anniversary.

I want to look today at Edwards 8th resolution:

#8 – Resolved: To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities, or failings, as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

I remember growing up having a plaque in our house with an Indian prayer on it (I doubt it was Indian but when you're poor you take what you can get): Lord, let me not judge my neighbor until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.

And while I don't necessarily think that's what Edwards was getting at here, I think it conveys the sentiments. When you read this story and think about how an adult could throw innocent children off a bridge into a river to die, what is your reaction? Is it along the lines of "there's a special place in hell for that guy"? Or how about "I hope they fry his sorry butt"?

What crosses your mind. Because the reactions above are very normal, human reactions. But the strange thing is that we don't ever consider ourselves capable of such evil. We think we have things pretty much under control. We think we're pretty civilized.

I submit, and I think Edwards knew this, that we are all capable of anything at any time save the intervening grace of God. And I also submit, that you and I have already committed the most heinous act that could be committed. Much worse than tossing children off a bridge.

We sinned against God. We rebelled and disobeyed. We told God to take a flying leap. Get lost. We don't need you.

And let me tell you something, if you're capable of that, you're capable of anything. As you look at what Edwards understood and really a lot of redwoods have understood throughout history is that evil lurks inside each and every one of us. It is our nature. It is our bent. And it is waiting for the opportunity to strike. We may not murder a child, but we will murder a co-worker with our gossip. We may not commit adultery but we'll cheat on our spouses by watching pornography. We may not commit genocide, but we'll do all we can to make sure "those people" don't join our church – because we want a pure church.

Evil is evil. Apart from the restraining grace of God, we are all capable of the worst atrocities that have been committed through the ages. You are very well capable of being the next Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, or Osama Bin Laden.

And so what Edwards implores of us here is to use the occasion or seeing evil, hearing of sin, or reading about it to cause us to look inside and see within ourselves our very own sin and then to lay it at the cross. To continually return to the Gospel where we were forgiven for the greatest evil the world has ever known. Rebellion against God.

Does it mean that we ignore justice? No. Does it mean that evil doesn't cause anger or pain? Not at all. But along with our condemnation or our judgment of others for their mishaps and failings, it will do us well to remember that we are all of the same condition and capable of the same things.

It's easy to walk a mile in another man's moccasins. Especially when we are all wearing the same shoes.

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