Thinking aloud about murder, adultery, and victimless crimes
I was reading about the capture of Mosul and how one Iraqi soldier took revenge against the Isis guy who’d been behind the murder of his family. Once captured and identified, the man was shot dead – shot dead while handcuffed, unable to defend himself, and without a trial. The journalist reporting this admits he doesn’t feel much sympathy for this man after all he’d done – and I expect most of us wouldn’t, but does that make his murder ok?
This took my mind to a story I recently blogged about – the extramarital affair in Land Girls, an affair between one of the land girls and a married man, where this man’s wife is portrayed as a seriously horrible, heartless and uncaring sort, so that we, the viewers, can’t have much sympathy for her. Which makes us more likely to sympathise with the adulterous couple, and maybe even condone what they’re doing, because hey, the only person they’re hurting is that heartless bitch, right?
When I committed adultery I didn’t use that excuse – I went with “what she won’t know won’t hurt her” so as long as we were careful to cover our tracks, I felt it was ok…
And when I stole, I felt it was ok because stealing from big faceless companies that have insurance somehow felt less bad. Again, no sympathy for the victims – just like in the case of the revenge killing in Mosul, or the adulterous affair in Land Girls. We do this so much, and yet…
There’s a story in the Bible about a king who committed adultery and murder, and when a prophet confronted him and made him see what he’d done, David’s response, recorded in a heartfelt psalm of repentance, includes this crucial bit (addressed to God): “Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.” David recognised something that I, in my pre-Christian existence, didn’t acknowledge – and it’s a concept that’s crucial for a proper understanding of sin: that when we do wrong, it’s not ultimately about the victims! Wrong isn’t any less wrong if the person you’re hurting is a really horrible person, and it’s not any less wrong if you’re not really hurting anyone. Wrong is wrong when it’s something God says is wrong.
And God, amongst other things, says not to murder and not to commit adultery and not to steal. He doesn’t add “except from horrible people” or “except from faceless corporations” or “except if you can hide it from them so they won’t find out”.
King David was a fallible human being just like the rest of us, and he did some bad stuff, but the wonderful thing is he did repent, he confessed his sins to God and knew that this is the way to find grace and mercy. That psalm is full of the knowledge of God’s grace. I leave you with these words:
51 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
God is gracious. He forgave David, and he’s done the same for me – blotting my iniquities, and creating in me a clean heart. He’ll do the same for you if you turn to him in repentance, put your faith in Jesus and accept his once-and-for-all atoning sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. There’s no sin that’s too big – the only thing that can get in the way is our refusal to repent and to accept God’s offer of grace. We all sin – and the blood of Jesus is available to wash us clean!