Letter to an old friend
So I was on facebook a while back (Ok, ok…i’m on it a LOT) and this was put into the status of an old high school friend of mine:
I’m getting ready to type an essay about crime and capital punishment and I need some help from my FB friends. Please give me your thoughts/opinion…. If God created man in his image, and God is good, then why are some people so bad? If God created us all, then why can’t we all be like him? Deep thoughts on FB! 🙂 Any input would be greatly appreciated.
I felt compelled to write back and I thought I would share what I wrote:
Original question: If God created man in his image, and God is good, then why are some people so bad? If God created us all, then why can’t we all be like him?
So, most, if not all, of my thoughts on this find their roots in scripture, so if you are a believer, this will probably be familiar to you. People’s view on scripture vary, but my personal belief is that scripture is “God-breathed”, (theopneustos in the original Greek), or “Divinely inspired” as quoted in 2 Timothy 3:16. Bearing that in mind, here is what I think:
People are bad because we have a nature in us that is present the second we are conceived in our mother’s womb. We are dead in our sins from our birth (Psalm 51:5 – Surely I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me). This sin nature finds its roots with Adam in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3, and is passed down through his descendants, namely, you and me. How sin is passed exactly, I am not sure, but any honest person will tell you that they have been guiltily of breaking one of the ten commandments at least once, making them guilty of sin (aka a “sinner”). The cycle continues on and on, generation to generation.
Not only do I believe that some people are “bad”, I believe ALL people are “bad” (myself included) when their actions and thoughts are held up to the standards set forth in scripture, like the Ten Commandments. Commonly, in our post-modern, relativistic, subjective truth oriented society, what separates people from thinking one person is “good” while another is “bad” is really a man centered view of “goodness”.
If we all compare ourselves to someone worse, it is easy to think that we are “good” people because we aren’t as bad as the person we are comparing ourselves to. By this logic, every person in history (except for one) could be considered “good” because there is always someone “worse” to compare themselves to. For example, if we use Adolf Hitler as our standard of the worst person in history, then Charles Manson could logically come to the conclusion that he is a “good” person because he was not as bad as Hitler. This is the sad relativist movement in full force in humanity today: as long as there is someone “worse” to compare ourselves to, we can make the argument that we are a “good person” and therefore do not need to change our bad habits even though deep down we know they are wrong.
For the believer however, the standard of goodness is God’s law. We know we are sinful because we are aware of our past and continuing struggle with sin that is in stark contrasts to God’s standards. However, we also have the hope in knowing that if we profess that Jesus Christ is our lord and savior, that we can be saved from the ramifications of sin (A literal and eternal hell). However being saved from hell is NOT simply saying a prayer one time, SAVING FAITH will result in a changed life, desiring to be obedient and glorifying God.
Even when we “follow our heart” to try and do what is right, we can still be deceived (Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?). That is why it is important to have an objective source of morality and standards to keep us from thinking what WE think is ok must be ok. It might not be objectively.
As far as capital punishment is concerned, people often like to (mis)quote Deuteronomy 5:17 by saying that “You shall not kill.” The accurate translation is actually “You shall not MURDER.” The difference between killing and murdering is whether or not it falls within the law. Murder does not, killing however does. Ironically, the people who often misquote this verse, also criticize the old testament for its rules enforcing capital punishment. So from a scriptural standpoint, the argument is completely baseless.
For me personally, I think there comes a time when a person’s history has shown that the individual is such a danger to society that it is best to end his life in the interest of protecting the society as a whole. That being said, I think there is also a lot of room for forgiveness in the judicial system as it has been set up to err on the side of NOT falsely convicting innocent people. Society as a whole needs to do a better job of forgiving and giving ex-cons a second chance when they have served their time, and give them a fair chance to prove that they have changed their ways.
We can’t be like God because of the same reason of Sin. However, there is a three step process that believers go through that does eventually make us like him:
1. Justification: This is the moment someone becomes a believer. Someone professes true faith in Christ and is saved (from hell).
2. Sanctification: This lasts from the second someone becomes a believer until a person’s death. This period of time is spent making those horribly difficult changes in our lives. We work on being more Christ-like: Sinning less and loving others more. It is a VERY tough time for the believer as many old habits die hard and temptation is CONSTANTLY an issue.
3. Glorification: This happens when we are physically resurrected to join Christ in heaven. We have perfected bodies that are no longer hindered by sin. Can’t wait for that day.
It makes me so sad how many people think that what saves them is a prayer. What saves us is Christ’s mercy, that is only given by sincere faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Matthew 7:21-23 tells us that there will be MANY people that THINK they are saved, but will be rejected and sent to hell. I pray daily that myself and my loved ones will not be one of them.
Ok sorry for the big time tangent, but I get WAY passionate about this. I would love to hear YOUR thoughts on this as well. Write me back about this when you get a chance. 🙂
On a side note: Part of being a Christian is being ready with answers to questions like these. I think it is important for a couple reasons:
- It shows others that we aren’t in our faith just because it is how we grew up. It shows people that we have been thoughtful about our faith and take it seriously.
- Having answers ready for questions like these provide us an opportunity to witness to others. These core questions (Why does God allow evil to exist? etc.) are CRUCIAL in opening up the door for further exploration into Christianity for non-believers. If we can not even supply a thoughtful answer to the core questions, people will almost always just stop there and not look into the faith further and an opportunity at exploration and conversion could be lost.
This is why it INFURIATES me that more churches and more believers don’t at least have a basic grasp of apologetics (Apologetics just means being able to provide a defense for Christianity). PLEASE, for the good of your own soul, and in the interest of being a tool for Christ, know some basic apologetics. There are some WONDERFUL resources at http://carm.org/, http://www.gotquestions.org/ and http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/. I would HIGHLY encourage you to bookmark those websites and use them often. CARM and Please Convince Me also have weekly podcasts that you can listen to as well.
May God bless you all and use us as tools to bring others to Christ.