In light of today’s news out of Boston, I have heard several people say words to the effect of, “What is wrong with people?” I have the answer.
I understand that there is an accepted standard of behavior in our society that we hold people to, and that this standard keeps changing. For instance, 50 years ago a woman who lived with a man who was not her husband would be shunned, castigated, and even persecuted. Fast forward to today. I know several couples who are living together (and presumably sleeping with each other, since they have children), and they experience little or none of the things they would have experienced had they lived and made this choice 50 years ago. So our standards change over time.
We understand that there is a disconnect between acceptable behavior and the actions of whoever planted these bombs in Boston today (assuming that bombs were the cause, as the news agencies are currently doing), the man in Sandy Hook who shot all those kids, Osama Bin Laden, Mohammad Atta, and every other person in recent memory who has murdered innocent people.
We ask, “What is wrong with people” but what we really are asking is this: why don’t these people hold to the same standard of behavior as we do? Why don’t they believe that killing people is wrong? Why do they think it’s acceptable behavior to shoot children, to blow up spectators at a race, and to blow up buildings with planes? Why don’t they agree with our standards?
God is asking the same question. He has perfect standards. He has given us a written record of His standards of what is acceptable behavior, and what isn’t. And you know what? Every person on earth fails to live up to His standards. Every single one of us fails to behave as we should, every single day. Every day God is disappointed in the actions, thoughts, and words of every single one of us.
That is why He came to earth. That is why He died on the cross, rose from the grave and made the provision for our salvation from the consequences of failing to live up to God’s standards. He loves us, and doesn’t want us to suffer forever because we continually make choices against His righteous standards. All we have to do to avoid this eternal suffering is to accept His gift. We simply trust that the sacrifice He made is sufficient in and of itself to save us. Nothing we do counts as anything towards paying these consequences.
In October of 2001 I bought a new van. It was the only brand new vehicle I have ever bought. A few weeks after I bought it, I drove my wife and two kids to my Dad’s house for a visit. We took our baby daughter inside while our four-year-old son played in the yard. After a while, we came outside to see what he was doing. Evidently he decided that the shiny, glossy finish on our new van was too boring, so he picked up a piece of gravel and drew on the paint. Not in one spot. Not in two spots. He scratched up the hood, all the way down the driver’s side panels, and the back of the van. It was at that moment that I told myself, “I love my son more than my van.”
Thankfully insurance covered the repair, but we still had to pay the $500 deductible. My four-year-old son would never have been able to pay that to us. He’s almost 16 years old now, and if you added up all the money he has received in his life up to this point, it probably still doesn’t total $500, let alone the multi-thousand dollar bill that the body work actually cost. That van was wrecked eight years later and is now scrap metal, but my son still does not have the ability to pay me what his actions cost. As his father, because I loved him so much, I paid for the consequences of his actions. And that is what God wants to do with us.
What is wrong with people? In one word: Sin. We all have it. We all express it differently, but we are all sinners. It has been reported that famous author G. K. Chesterton answered the question “What is wrong with the world” by sending a letter to the newspaper as follows, “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely, G. K. Chesterton.”
While the actions of the perpetrators of today’s crime in Boston are truly heinous, we would do well to remember that they are just as heinous in God’s eyes as the choices every one of us makes every day. We may be “better” than the bomber because we haven’t killed anybody, but whose standard matters in the end? Ours? Or God’s?
When we are all present at Judgment Day, I know who is going to be sitting on the throne. I guarantee it’s not going to be you or me.