Some years ago, a man in Santa Ana, California burned himself to death to protest civil actions being taken against him. The act accomplished nothing; the civil actions continued. Nathan Hale made the following heroic words prior to his death; “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Nevertheless the revolution against England still had to be fought on the battlefield. Over the years, many have protested against perceived injustice and inhuman activity. Yet it appears in most cases, nothing essential changes.
The problem lies in the basic nature of the human being. Hatred, coming from national, racial and religious differences, has resulted in conflict for thousands of years. It appears to be in the inherent nature of mankind to dislike and hate those who are different from themselves. This is also called Sin. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind has lived in a state of Sin, resulting in hostilities, strife and murder. The best efforts of “decent” humans have failed. We will never save ourselves from the results of sin.
But God has stepped in where mankind has failed. He has solved the problem of sin, but according to His plan and timing, not ours. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as the savior of mankind, accomplishing what we are unable to perform. Because of our sin, God declares that mankind cannot enter into His eternal rest. Only perfect mankind can enter that kingdom. But because of our very nature, none of us are perfect. Regardless of how much we attempt to do good, we are still sinners, subject to His judgment.
But Jesus Christ, God become man, was able to do what we cannot do. Being absolutely perfect, He gained the victory over Sin. The wages of sin is death, and Jesus died in payment of sin in our place. As our substitute, and gives us this victory over sin when we believe this and put our trust in Him as our Savior.
All this is according to His timing and plan. We continue to live in this sinful world, enduring the consequences of sin: wars, plagues, crime in the streets, sickness, various unfair activities of our fellow humans, and eventually death. And God’s plan for us is finalized at our death: eternal life in His kingdom for those believing in Jesus Christ and trusting in his death on the cross to earn for us forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with His Father. Or eternal damnation for those who reject His act of reconciliation.
God calls us to be “decent” humans, loving those who are different from us, loving the unlovable, and even loving those who hate us for who we are. Yet, in all this we must acknowledge our own sin, that we are unlovable, different, and hateful. But we acknowledge Jesus Christ to be our Savior, who has saved us from our sin and has forgiven us wretched sinners. Jesus promises us life after death when we proclaim Him our Lord and Savior who has redeemed us even while we are still sinners.
So we live our lives doing what we hope is in accordance with God’s will for us, and knowing that God has already forgiven us when we fail. Thank God for His abundant grace and love.
Richard H. Snyder is a retired pastor with the Lutheran Church, Missouri synod.