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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

No Ordinary Man

Promoting Life or Fostering Death?

Auschwitz-Birkenau, Buchenwald, Dachau . . . or the death camps in Siberia, the Philippines, or Japan, or the

genocide in Rwanda . . . may all feel like fearful black holes of human behavior. One may wonder how humans, created in the image of the true God, “merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving...” (Exodus 34:6, 7), could ever reach such a terrible state of decay as to make a “science” of how to afflict and kill their fellows. And these instances were not in the dark age of slavery, but in recent decades. At closer look, we might agree that those happenings were not so different in nature from some other recent terrorist attacks, for which we just cannot find any logical explanation, either. The difference may be only in the size, or numbers, but the roots tend to be the same.

How can it be? Why do these things occur?

Why did Andreas B. Breiwik kill 77 and injure more than 300 people in Norway in July 2011? Let us take that example. The Italian MEP Francesco Speroni, an ex-minister of the Italian government, a leading member of the Lega Nord, said: “Breivik's ideas are in defense of western civilization.” 1 What does it possibly mean? That having in view such a noble task, to defend the western civilization, those crimes are . . . not really crimes?! Breivik himself, the attacker, stated in his trial that he acknowledged the killings, but not the guilt (?!), because he acted in defense of what he referred to as “Christian Europe.” That means that in his mind, Breivik believes that his action was RIGHT. After the 8 hours of reconstruction of the whole massacre on the Utoya island, the police officers explained that Breivik seemed to be a bit moved, but felt no remorse. Was/is he sane? To our astonishment, the second evaluation done by 5 judges found that, yes indeed, he was sane. . . . Yet what fearful “sanity”!

“Lord, is it I?”

We all feel sane. To call someone a criminal is a shocking, painful approach to take toward people. We would feel heavily offended if somebody would suggest such a thing to us. But let us remember the disciples. They sincerely loved Christ, for whom they had left everything, and whom they followed enthusiastically. Christ had just informed them that one of them would sell Him to death, “and they were exceeding sorrowful , and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I ?” (Matthew 26:21, 22). What saved them was the wonderful, sweet, deep love of Jesus. They were not offended by His words, but rather were “exceeding sorrowful”! And because they loved Him too, they did the wisest thing possible: they tried to examine their own hearts by considering in their minds, “No, it can't be! But what if it is?! What if the betrayer is I?” To point to oneself as a criminal by the sharp judge of your own conscience, is a deep, shocking experience! But it is necessary, and welcomed.

Let us take the ideal context. There was One who for three years and a half “went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:38), employing all His energies to bless and comfort. “There were whole villages where there was not a moan of sickness in any house, for He had passed through them and healed all their sick.” 2 He was healing hundreds of hopelessly sick people, sometimes feeding thousands for free, teaching them the words of God. Crowds were flooding the places of His presence; it was hard for Him even to rest, as the interest in His ministry and His popularity were so high! Few days before the Passover feast, thrilled by joy, they were crying, “Hosanna, to the son of David” (Matthew 21:9). Yet, incredibly, less than two weeks later, on a Friday morning those same people—the people of God—were fiercely screaming: “Crucify Him, crucify Him”! How can such a fact be understood? What are the reasons?!

The implications are even more disturbing. Are we not the Lord's people? Are we not His disciples? Are we not loving Him, and waiting for His coming? So were they! But all this did not prevent them from committing the grievous crime of murdering the Son of God! How was it possible? Let's ask God's Word for the answer:

“The greatest deception of the human mind in Christ's day was that a mere assent to the truth constitutes righteousness. In all human experience a theoretical knowledge of the truth has been proved to be insufficient for the saving of the soul. It does not bring forth the fruits of righteousness. A jealous regard for what is termed theological truth often accompanies a hatred of ge nuine truth as made manifest in life. The darkest chapters of history are burdened with the record of crimes committed by bigoted religionists .” 3

Sadly, this truth has been proven true in the following centuries. I recently visited the death camps Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald. In the name of a “superior” doctrine, the Nazis invented terrifying methods to kill millions of people, the great majority of whom were Jewish. And what is most surprising is that they were under the belief that they were serving their country, even the interests of humanity for a better world!

We remember the Crusades, the shameful wars done in the Name of the One Who silently extended His arms on a cross, praying forgiveness for His persecutors! Marching under the flags “of the cross,” for centuries Christ's “followers” were bringing death under the name of salvation, under the blessings of cardinals and bishops who were supposed to represent Christ on earth!

The holocaust with its millions of victims is explained and discussed in many places around our planet! And it has to be! It is a horrific reality of our human history, and it has not to be repeated! What about the twenty-times more horrific number of 50 million (officially registered) heretics killed by so-called the “Holy Inquisition”—the institution of the “Holy Church,” which was supposed to promote the love, the mercy and the grace of God?... Have you ever visited any museum that commemorates those centuries-long massacres?!

Yes, we may have repugnant feelings toward these realities! But we are forced to admit that they do not represent some abnormal individuals, but, sadly, the very root of mankind. Too soon after sin entered our world and our human nature, the crime of Cain testified of our new, tragic state of being.

The truth made a curse

What about today? Are you and I any better? How do we react to things we don't like or don't agree with? Do we ever get angry? Have we ever hated even for only a few minutes someone who has deeply, intentionally hurt us? If yes, then who were we at such a moment? Were we not some miniature Hitler, just not having an Auschwitz in which to apply the supposedly deserved “purification,” or simply, just to discharge our hatred? At a sincere examination in the light of God's Word, we may painfully find out that we are suffering from the same disease, howbeit on a different scale. But the fearful fact is that five cancerous cells are cancer, just as a one-pound tumor is cancer. It is only a matter of time to be visibly proven as such.

“The same danger still exists. Many take it for granted that they are Christians, simply because they subscribe to certain theological tenets. But they have not brought the truth into practical life. They have not believed and loved it, therefore they have not received the power and grace that come through sanctification of the truth. Men may profess faith in the truth ; but if it does not make them sincere, kind, patient, forbearing, heavenly-minded, it is a curse to its possessors, and through their influence it is a curse to the world.” 4

Anki Gerhardsen, a respected drama critic and journalist, wrote, in the context of the Andreas B. Breivic's killings, about what he called the “collective guilt.” 5 He claimed that society (social services or other agencies) had betrayed a little boy through certain impulses and movements of our culture in such a way that might have developed the narcissistic perpetrator—in other words, claiming that society had collectively “created” a mass murderer, sharing his guilt.

The idea stands: Any lack of true love is, in a sense, the root of crime. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:8). Any disconnection from God, necessarily renders it impossible to love, which opens the door for crime. We might deceive ourselves, thinking that we observe God's law, that we didn't “kill” anybody. Yet is this the reality?

Obviously, some forms of killing are regarded with abhorrence, and we would never associate ourselves with them. But what about those that are subtler? Let the Word of God explain: “All acts of injustice that tend to shorten life; the spirit of hatred and revenge, or the indulgence of any passion that leads to injurious acts toward others, or causes us even to wish them harm (for whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer'); a selfish neglect of caring for the needy or suffering; all self-indulgence or unnecessary deprivation or excessive labor that tends to injure health – all these are, to a greater or less degree, violations of the sixth commandment.”6 How does it feel? Aren't we, all of us, in this decayed state? “The indulgence of any passion that leads to injurious acts toward others....” We don't have to perform those injurious acts to be accounted as criminals. It is sufficient to be so far away with God's spirit, as to indulge those passions to rule our mind. The simple, “understandable” neglect to care for the other's needs or sufferings is regarded by our Father in the same way. What would a father say about his son upon discovering that he carelessly left his younger brother/sister to suffer when he could have helped him/her? Is it not that neglect regarded as criminal, even by us? How much more by our loving Father? Thus, all kinds of abuses we cause to ourselves by overworking, by knowingly transgressing the laws of our living machinery are added to the list of our transgressions of the sixth commandment.

The essence of Lucifer's sin ended up in a hidden desire to kill the Creator! Lucifer could not grasp that; he thought it an exaggeration, meant to make him to change his mind. And he did not alter his wicked plans.... Four thousand years later, to the astonishment of billions of faithful angels, Satan proved true the theory of sin—he was indeed seen as the most abject sort of murderer!

It is only by faith that we may not repeat this deception!

The core of our problem is not that we sometimes behave in a distorted way as described above. The problem is that human nature IS like that. We as humans are only revealing from time to time our true, desperate condition! And the additional problem is that we don't even realize it. We assume that if we never use a gun or knife to shed blood, we are okay. But we are not! The painful truth is that we all have screamed with the Jewish leaders: “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” We all have pierced His dear hands, nailing Him on the cross, and thrust upon His loving forehead that thorny crown! And even worse, we continue to do it, any time we injure any of our fellows, directly or potentially, in our thinking. “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40). The terrible question we may bring forward is: “Am I that criminal?” And the truthful answer will come from His holy lips: “Yes, you are!” (See Matthew 26:25.) It is only by His grace that we may agree, accepting this awful truth about ourselves. Only by His grace will we not run away from Him, ashamed, or revengeful, as Judas did!

By faith we may agree that any sin, however small we may regard it, contains the hidden desire of killing the Creator!

We may cry, facing our desperate condition, together with Paul: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, RSV.)

Beloved “criminals”!

Praise be unto God for His graceful solutions! There is One, only One who can and will deliver all those who accept His help! The good news is that even the worst sinner can enjoy the complete recovery of God's redeeming power! The thief on the cross, after wasting all his life in all kind and sorts of crimes, heard the beautiful, life-giving words: “Verily I say unto thee today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43) On the other cross, the Sin-Bearer Lamb of God was paying the price! Infinite Love was paying the crime! Life was conquering death. The sin of separation from God, was being redeemed by the blood of the Creator Himself! Oh, what a wonderful solution to the deep-rooted problem of murder, of sin!

At the foot of that cross is the only fountain of healing! “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 13:1). The fountain of redeeming grace opened on Golgotha is sufficient not only to pay the penalty of all crimes of the whole humanity, but to quench the very root of them: to uproot the enmity between our hearts and God's heart! Seeing the holy Sufferer hanging on that cross, we will be overwhelmed by realizing our ingratitude, our cruelty, and our sinfulness. What a manner of reconciliation! “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:10, 11). Instead of casting on us the death penalty we deserve, the dear eternal Father made it fall upon Jesus! “The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). This is the power of God! The arms of Jesus, spread widely to be nailed on the cross, are the warranty that the eternal arms of the Father are likewise spread widely, waiting for you and for me!

Any soul that accepts this eternal love, is led through a divine process of healing his enmity, his hatred against God and His principles! Drawn by that love, he mourns over his sins in tears of repentance and God is giving him His Own Spirit as “the Spirit of God through faith produces a new life in the soul. The thoughts and desires are brought into obedience to the will of Christ. The heart, the mind, are created anew in the image of Him who works in us to subdue all things to Himself. Then the law of God is written in the mind and heart, and we can say with Christ, I delight to do Thy will, O my God' (Psalm 40:8).” 7 This is The Way! (John 14:6.) The only way to eradicate the hatred that originated in Lucifer's heart is to accept for God's Spirit to freely work in our lives. The result “is not a modification or improvement of the old, but a transformation of nature. There is a death to self and sin, and a new life altogether. This change can be brought about only by the effectual working of the Holy Spirit.” 8

Can we love? Can we, who were by nature the children of wrat h, even as others (Ephesians 2:3) love as He loved? We can, indeed, by this resurrection to His life! “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). He is Love! Beholding Him day after day, contemplating His character, we are changed into His likeness. “Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).

A changed life

I remember when I was six, while visiting my grandparents, I saw a meek and gentle old man, talking with my grandfather. What impressed me was that in spite of his size—he was a really big man—he was nice and peaceful. The story was from the time of their detention for the Lord's sake. They were speaking about a double murderer who had been the terror of the entire prison.... I knew that my grandfather had spent six years in jail for the sake of his Saviour, but I did not understand who could have been that terrible man they were speaking about... Then later at home I asked my father. I still remember to my great surprise: The terrible criminal from the story was ... the same gentle old man, speaking with Grandpa! How?! My father explained: The fearful criminal asked Grandpa, many years ago, while in the same jail, about the reason why he was there. Grandpa explained about his own faith, about Jesus and His sacrifice and about Christians not partaking in any war or bloodshed. And when the criminal heard the words, “and Jesus loves you, too”, he became aggressive, and heavily beat my grandfather: “Nobody loves me! If you say it again, I will kill you.”

After some days, the story repeated almost the same way, and being hit so badly, Grandfather said: “Even if you kill me, the Lord Jesus still loves you! One day you will understand it!” It looked like that was the day! The big criminal burst in tears. “Do you really mean that He loves me? I'm a criminal! ...” “Exactly for this did Jesus come: To save criminals...” And in that prison, the miracle started to the amazement of the other prisoners. Once again, Eternal Love conquered a criminal! The man ended up being hit and injured by other inmates, because they would not believe how he had changed, and they wanted to prove it.

Oh, the precious story of salvation! It can be ours as well, if we accept it as the worst sinners! (See 1 Timothy 1:15.) The same Spirit of the Lord will write in our hearts, as He did thousands of thousands of times with others, before us! “When the heavenly principle of eternal love fills the heart, it will flow out to others, not merely because favors are received of them, but because love is the principle of action, and modifies the character, governs the impulses, controls the passions, subdues enmity, and elevates the affections. This love is not contracted, so as merely to include me and mine,' but is as broad as the world and as high as heaven. It is in harmony with that of the angel workers. This love, cherished in the soul, sweetens the entire life, and sheds a refining influence on all around. Possessing it, we cannot but be happy, let fortune smile or frown. And if we love God with all the heart, we must love His children also. This love is the spirit of God.” 9

“Thou shalt love...”! “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). The law of life, the law of liberty resides in this heaven-born principle: to love as God loves. This is biblical Christianity; this is to belong to His family, to be “born of God” (John 1:13). And this, being divine, cannot be produced by humans. Only by receiving Him, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” can we live like Him and love like Him! “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). And this is the ideal of God for us. “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godliness—godlikeness—is the goal to be reached.” 10

How can it be fulfilled? By accepting Him, with His life, in us! “The law requires righteousness—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God's holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men . Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.' (Romans 3:26).” 11

And in this way, he Who is “the light of the world” (John 8:12), surprisingly, tells us: “ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). How? By the manifestation of the mystery of godliness: “which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). It is our golden opportunity to give up to our so-called “living” and receive His life! Not only to be moral people, but to be brilliant, shining children of God. As the apostle Paul testified, so to testify likewise about our true life, acquired by faith: “...I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

How does this happen?

The whole miracle of being “partakers on His divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), of having in us the mind “which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5) revolves around the submission of self under His divine will. “When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life .” 12 In this way we have passed from death to life; to His Life! Will you submit to Him? Will I? “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). By crucifying self, together with all its sinful tastes and inclinations, we will receive and live His life. “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Corinthians 4:10, 11). In this way eternity has been already begun for us! May this be our experience, by His abundant grace! Amen.

1 John Hooper (27 July 2011): “Ex-Berlusconi minister defends Anders Behring Breivik”. The Guardian. 2. 2. 2. London. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
3 Steps to Christ, p. 11.
4 The Desire of Ages, p. 309. [Emphasis supplied.]
5 Ibid., pp.309, 310.
6 Anki Gerhardsen, teaterkritiker og journalist. “Kronikk: Hvem eier 22. juli?”.
7 Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 308.
8 The Desire of Ages, p. 175.
9 Ibid., p.172.
10 Our High Calling, p. 175.
11 Education, p. 18.
12 The Desire of Ages, p. 762.
13 Christ's Object Lessons, p. 312.