Thursday, November 7, 2013

Theology Thursday: Wrath Leads to Sin

Today, a friend of mine posted an article to Facebook detailing the gruesome murder of a pedophile while he was in prison.  He had been bragging about the rapes and molestations of children he'd committed before being caught.  After reading the article, I was not surprised to find the comments section full of people who thought the two criminals that killed him ought to be given a commuted sentence or even a medal for having brought real justice to this 23 year old man.  I have a different perspective.

I was molested from the age of 4 until the age of 9 by my stepfather, who was exactly 20 years older than I was.  That sin on his part led me down so many dark paths, shattered my self-esteem, and made it a struggle for me to have normal, healthy relationships with men and even with women. It also nearly destroyed my faith completely.  It tore my family apart, and I am not sure that I will ever stop finding areas of my life that are impacted by what was done.  This is the reality of sexual molestation.  It gets even worse if there was physical damage caused by penetration of a body not ready to handle it.  Fortunately, I was spared that part.

I mention this because I want you to know that I understand how horrific a crime sexual abuse is.  It strikes at the heart of the very thing that is needed to be able to give and receive love, and distorts the child's view of the link between love and sex.  It leaves lasting scars and forever changes the life of that child in ways that it is hard for someone who hasn't been there to even explain.   However, I have also seen that sex offenders can be rehabilitated.  They can change.  Through the grace of God, they can receive the help they need to make changes to their lives.  In order for that to happen, though, they have to be alive.

This prison murder demonstrates perfectly the dangers of wrath.  I want you to think about what happened. Two prisoners, in cold blood, came and viciously killed a 23 year old man.  If they could so murder a man like that without hesitation, I don't imagine that they were in prison for writing bad checks. Quite likely the crimes that they were guilty of having committed were far worse than what that man had done.  Wrath, however, blinds us to the seriousness of our own sin and allows us the luxury of elevating the sins of others in our own minds.  It makes us feel better about who we are and what we've done while allowing us to put ourselves in the seat of judgement over others.

There is a huge difference between righteous anger and wrath.  It is righteous anger that put that man in prison in the first place.  No one has the right to harm little children, or to use them for sexual gratification. We should be outraged when those things happen.  We should move to stop them from happening again.
However, it is wrath that took the man's life away and prevented him from any hope of repentance or rehabilitation.  Instead of allowing God's justice to prevail, these prisoners put themselves in the place of God and judged him.  They are like the servant who, owing a great sum of money to the king which he could not repay was forgiven but instead of showing mercy to other sinners, went out and shook down someone who owed him for a much smaller amount.

I am grieved for the children that man molested, but I am equally grieved for the soul of the man who died. The truth is most men who go on to molest and rape children have themselves been raped and molested.  They are deeply wounded human beings whose crimes rise out of their own pain.  They struggle to find a way to alleviate that pain, and because they don't know a better way to do things, they allow that pain to be spent on the innocent child.  They need our prayers, our love, and our mercy.  They need forgiveness and hope and healing, not this.  Not "prison justice", not wrath. This man was just barely into his 20's.  He had a lot of potential in him, a lot that could have happened in his life to help him become a better person. We'll never know, though.  Wrath won out that day.

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