My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
We live in a broken world.
A world marred and distorted by sin.
It seems, with ever-increasing frequency, we are inundated with news from around the world that shakes us to our very core. When we hear news of evil committed in the world we can easily be tempted to descend into hopelessness (perhaps even bitterness and animosity), especially when we see violence and abuse inflicted on the most vulnerable in our world: children.
When the recent news broke about the grizzly discovery of a number of unmarked graves containing the remains of over 200 children at an Indian Residential School in Kamloops, I felt a mixed bag of emotions; anger, sadness, horror, and deep, personal wounds from my own childhood.
See, my father attended a similar school in his youth. A school run by the Catholic Church, by people who claimed to represent Jesus, where he experienced abuse and racial discrimination. A school where he had his native language literally beaten out of him. A school whose philosophy was rooted in the same evil we are now seeing unearthed in Kamloops: “kill the Indian, save the child”.
Beloved, we must remember some vitally important biblical Truths as we seek to formulate a response, both as a church and as individuals who follow Jesus.
First, these horrendous acts of evil against children deeply grieve our loving God. Jesus Himself said, “It would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:2). I’m reminded of a line from a Sunday school song so many of us know, “Jesus loves the little children” – indeed He does. And so, first and foremost, we need to remember that God mourns alongside us when we hear tragic news of evil, such as this. His heart weeps over the loss of these lives, more so than our own.
Second, at the very core of this evil is human sin. Full stop. Sin is the biggest problem our world has. Sin is what separates us from our Creator, our Father in Heaven. Sin is what led Jesus to the cross, where He gave up His own Body and Blood to pay the penalty our sin demands. Human sin is what drives the hearts of those who commit such vile acts of violence and abuse against children.
Yet, this is not an isolated incident. There are, sadly, so many examples of the most vulnerable members of our world suffering as a result of the sin that exists in this world. For example, in Canada alone, over the last ten years there have been a total of 1,252,251 abortions (source: https://www.arcc-cdac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/statistics-abortion-in-canada.pdf).
Read that number again: over 1.2 MILLION children murdered in the safety of the womb before even given a chance at life.
I could go on and cite the number of starving children in the world, or how many children are suffering abusive home environments, experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts (a situation exacerbated by the current lockdown regimes in place in our country and around the world).
ALL of this grieves God, deeply.
So, when we are confronted with what we are seeing unearthed in Kamloops, we need to remember this is not an isolated event, but evidence of just how desperately our entire world needs the regenerative work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because of human sin (Romans 3:23). THAT, my beloved, is the ONLY solution to the ongoing depravity and sin that exists in our world today.
Third, and this may ruffle some feathers, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to rescue the most wretched of sinners – even those who commit such atrocities. The Apostle Paul was a murderer and persecutor of the church (Acts 7:57-58, 8:3,9:1-2; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Philippians 3:5-6) and yet Jesus rescued and redeemed even him.
A wonderful book I highly recommend called The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis, addresses a position our hearts can mistakenly take which can prevent us from seeing the magnitude and power the Gospel truly has. A man is brought into heaven, only to meet another man who, while on earth, was a murderer. The man objects to the murderer’s presence in heaven, and says “If he is here, I want nothing to do with this place” (paraphrased).
Beloved, do you see the problem with this mindset? A mindset we can all easily slip into when we put ourselves in the judgment seat of God and attempt to act as judge over the fate of men’s souls (Deuteronomy 32:35, Romans 12:19-20).
We are not God.
We are not privy to the inner workings of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of mankind.
We do not know if any one of these individuals truly repented of the evil they committed (and it is truly evil) and turned to Jesus for forgiveness.
Our prayers should be that they did.
In fact, our prayers should be for all those who stand in opposition to God and His righteousness (Matthew 5:44).
On top of that, we as Christians and as a Church should wholly and completely abhor and resist any ideology that foists guilt and condemnation upon those who did not willingly and personally participate in this violence against children, but merely possess the same skin colour, or faith, as those who did. If anyone – regardless of race or ethnicity or creed – truly repents and seeks forgiveness from Jesus Christ they are thoroughly and completely forgiven (“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9). Guilt before God is a matter of sins we commit as individuals, not on the basis of membership to one group or another (Galatians 3:28 & Colossians 3:11).
However, throughout history there have been forces at work in our world to divide our churches. The latest iteration of such attempts are rooted in an anti-Gospel teaching that places the burden of guilt for historical racial injustices on the descendants of such individuals, and commonly entire groups of people. This ideology runs contrary to the saving power of Jesus Christ, who rescues individuals from sin and invites them into a personal relationship with Himself. Your identity, as a Christian, is first and foremost IN CHRIST – remember that.
And lastly, Beloved, we exist to spread this Good News: that Christ came to save sinners. The words of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to Timothy should ring loud in each of our hearts as we seek to understand and reflect the grace and mercy and forgiveness of our Lord into the lives of even the most grievous of disobedient sinners:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” – 1 Timothy 1:15
This verse applies to all of us, because each and every one of us is capable of unspeakable horror. Yet, we stand forgiven, and redeemed under the blood of Jesus. As these issues arise (and they will again and again in our broken world), we should seek to step out into the world in obedience – not retreat from it in horror or hopelessness – preaching the saving power of Christ crucified.
The Gospel has been, still is, and will always be the sole solution for a creation corrupted by human sin.
I love you all, so very much. If you want to meet and discuss any of this, please do reach out to myself or the Shepherds.
Pastor Peter Barnaby
Chelsea Green Community Church