Rev. Dr. Scott R. MurrayMaintenance of the true faith among us is an apostolic mandate. The apostle Paul sharply warned the Corinthians against frittering away the true faith for a false gospel in keeping with the dictates of human reason. We sometimes like to think that our human reason is equivalent to autonomous judgment. But it is not. Our human reason is only captive to this world's principles (Gal 4:9). Our fallen intellect is a slave to the elements of human reason that reflect only Adam's perspective. God never gets a thought in edgewise, so to speak, because the human heart, will and mind, are only evil continually (Gn 6:5). Only the miracle of God's self-revelation in Christ our Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit overturns this false thinking. Only outside of us will the truth of the gospel find us. The only alternative to the freedom of the gospel is the enslaving "autonomy" of human reason. Reason boxes us humans into a space in which there can be no God, nor mercy, nor the covering of transgressions.
In the wake of the enormous tragedy that happened at Virginia Tech University this week, the mavens of the media have roundly condemned the "shooter" for his heinous acts. There is a level where such evil must be rejected as inhuman and a violation of the sanctity of human life. This is right. But, let us not fool ourselves into thinking how pure we are by how loudly we accuse the other. Take for instance a small inhumanity on an elementary school playground. When the teacher approaches to find out who threw the stones that caused tears among the denizens of the ball field, often one of the as yet unidentified perpetrators (in Washington-speak: "unindicted co- conspirator") most vehemently accuses another child who may also be complicit in the crime. He cries, "Johnny did it...Johnny did it!" But as any shrewd student of human behavior will tell you, we tend to accuse most vehemently what we most despise in ourselves. As one of my correspondents reminded me yesterday, all of us are descendants of Cain rather than Abel (Gn 4). The VTU slaughter should lead all of us to deep repentance for neither have we kept the fifth commandment. How deep our woe should be.
But the reaction of the mavens of the media as well as our own is the reaction of old Adam pointing his crooked finger at the other, "Cho did it...Cho did it!" This cannot stand in the face of the true faith that leads us to repentance and sin cleansed for Christ's sake. The new life of Christ that defeats sin and death gladly admits to sin and death within ourselves, knowing that God in His self-revelation in Christ is turning us inside out. Only the gospel can turn us outside of ourselves, away from slavery to Adam's human reason, to the Word of the God who dies on the cross taking our blame, that we might be freed from the blame game. The only blame left was heaped upon Jesus as our substitute: "Jesus did it...Jesus did it!" We may not flee to our own "reasonable" assessment of death and violence, whether the death of the cross or the slaughter of VTU. Self vindication through accusation is not faithful.
We find ourselves going back to basic questions these days. Why? Because such clear outbreaks of evil force us to consider all the most fundamental human issues, God, death, life, humanity, faith, forgiveness, judgment, justice. If these things have not been taught from the pulpits of our churches then we have no resources from God to deal with the messiness of human life, with all its wickedness and depravity. If God's story is not ours then we remain slaves of our "autonomy," trapped by the human wickedness that is in our own hearts.
Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray is the Senior Pastor at Memorial Lutheran Church and School in Houston, TX.
Created: April 24th, 2007