The Murderous, Hilarious Human

The human is a creature of contradictions, capable of murder, wit, wry observation, and great perseverance, not to mention many other things.  Consider:

After a Boko Haram attack [newyorker.com]

After a Boko Haram attack [newyorker.com]

“Slaughtered Him Like a Ram”

Details are sketchy, but by some reports Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist militant group, butchered 2,000 people last week in northeastern Nigeria.

A 12 year-old survivor of an earlier attack, now living as an orphan in a refugee camp, recalls the death of his father:

I saw them kill my father; they slaughtered him like a ram. And up until now I don’t know where my mother is.” -Suleiman Dauda

Jesus, have mercy.  This is what the human has made his particular speciality for thousands of years: murder.

Of all the earth’s creatures, none is capable of greater evil than the human.

So, Why Not Destroy the Creation?

In Genesis 6-9 we read of Noah and the Great Flood that the Lord sends to destroy the earth.  When I read of what’s happening in Nigeria or Syria or some other place, I think, “Why not wipe the whole thing away, Lord?  Why not stop all the killing?”

"Noah's Ark," Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, c. 1100 AD

“Noah’s Ark,” Abbey Church of Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, c. 1100 AD

For people like me, living comfortable lives in comfortable places, it’s easy to be troubled by the Lord’s decision to kill everyone.  But if we were living in the midst of the kind of suffering and misery and murder that’s happening in Syria or the Borno state in Nigeria, would we be praying for God just to end it all?

When we honestly contemplate the violence of which the human creature is capable it seems that God was right: the slate needs to be wiped clean.

But the Creation’s Still Here

So, why didn’t the Lord finish the job and completely destroy our entire race?

The Deadly Mix

The human is a mix of the brutal and the beautiful, of violence and humor.  While murder was happening in Nigeria (and many other places), there was an NFL playoff game yesterday between Dallas and Gren Bay.  After Dez Bryant’s remarkable catch was controversially overruled by the officials, someone posted on Twitter:

The same creature that is capable of the murders in Nigeria is also capable of a wry, funny observation in 140 characters or less.  That tweet by Brandon McCarthy is just about perfect, isn’t it?

Plus a “Bro Country” Mashup

An aspiring country music songwriter named Greg Todd wanted to prove that there is a simple formula that the writers of the top “Bro Country” songs all follow.  So, he laid the songs over each other in an audio mashup, and made a video of it:

The same creature that is capable of murder and writing witty 140 character sentences is also capable of astute analysis of a pop cultural phenomenon.  And capable of putting his analysis together in a way that pokes good-natured fun at the industry in which he wants to succeed.

And Then We Have The “Ghost Boy”

Martin Pistorius lived a real-life nightmare: he was totally unable to move for 12 years, but everyone thought he was in a vegetative state.  For 12 years, he was a prisoner in his own body, able only to control his thoughts.

Martin Pistorius sometime between 1990 and 1994, when he was unable to communicate. [NPR]

Martin Pistorius sometime between 1990 and 1994, when he was unable to communicate. [NPR]

His story is one of the more remarkable (and blackly humorous) stories I’ve heard in years.  At one point, Mr. Pistorius talks about how much he hated the television show Barney that was always on the tv in front of him, day after day; his admission made me laugh out loud. (Listen to the 11 minute NPR story yourself.)

Maybe God Knew

I’m not saying that a funny Tweet, entertaining YouTube video, and the testimony of a man imprisoned in his own body somehow balance out the horrifying murders in Nigeria.  I’m merely pointing out how strange a creature is the human: all of the different examples above are the actions of the exact same species.

Maybe God knew what a bizarre mix the human was.  Maybe, while hating the sin in the human, the Lord also loved the humor, invention, perseverance, and love of which the human was capable.

Maybe God isn’t through with us yet.

 

Lurking at the Door

Where did it go wrong with Bob McDonnell?  Where does it go wrong with any of us?  Beware thinking that you or I are aren’t capable of the same things.  And worse.

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

What Do You Do When You Want to Sin?

It’s a question I’ve been asking recently: how does someone purposely refuse sin when it’s sin that he wants to choose?

It’s easy to refuse sin when it’s not what you want, but what about when sin’s precisely what you most want?

The one who wants to commit adultery will choose adultery.

The one who wants to steal will choose theft.

The one wants to gossip will choose to spread the unkind word.

The one who wants to murder will choose murder.

At the moment when you are confronted with a sinful choice that you’ve already decided you want to take, it’s too late.

The First Murder in the Bible

The first murder in the Bible is in Genesis 4, but before it happens, the LORD God warns Cain, “Sin is lurking at the door.  It’s desire is for you, but you must master it” [Genesis 4:7 NRSV].

At some point, rather than fearing sin, Cain welcomed it, and was devoured.

Cain murders Abel–his own brother–and murder has been part of the human story ever since.

[http://www.africadreamsafaris.com]

[http://www.africadreamsafaris.com]

No One Is Safe

Bob McDonnell, former Governor of Virginia, was sentenced Tuesday to 2 years in Federal Prison on corruption charges.  Bob McDonnell is a Christian and is described by his family, associates, and political rivals as a good man.  And yet for all that, Bob McDonnell made a choice to choose the sin that would devour him, but that choice wasn’t at the specific moment that a political donor asked him for some special favors: it was way before that.

At some point, Bob McDonnell made a choice to ignore small dishonest choices.  And then those choices grew up.

Sin starts small, but grows.  There are sins in my life that if I ignore–or worse, deliberately attract–will devour me.

Same goes for you.

At the moment we are faced with the sin that will devour us, it’s too late.  The only way to be protected is to fight the sins early, when you don’t want them and when they are small.

Kill It Early

The easy time to kill adultery is when the first thought of it appears, not when you’re on the work trip with the co-worker you’ve been flirting and drinking with for 48 hours and whom you’ve been looking forward to sleeping with for several weeks.  At that point, you want to choose sin, and you will.  At that point, sin’s been lurking at your door a long time: its desire for you is probably much stronger than your desire to master it.

You fight theft by attacking the obvious signs of greed in your life.

You fight gossip by repenting of small harmful sentences you speak about others.

You fight murder by being aware of your tendency to small bursts of indignance and superiority.

It’s Lurking At Your Door

I’m not any better than anyone else.  And neither are you.  But for the grace of God, there we go.

Quick Thoughts on Genesis 1 (& the Best Visual Interpretation I’ve Seen)

How things begin matters.  We see God’s intention for creation from the beginning: an integrated whole, in which all the parts are good and all the parts fit together to give glory to God.  The Hebrew word for this is shalom: peace, wholeness, harmony.

I love this visual interpretation of Genesis 1 [www.minimumbible.com]

[www.minimumbible.com]

The Song of Creation

One other quick thought on Genesis 1.  The author talks of days and nights from the very beginning, but the sun and the moon aren’t created until the fourth day.  Ancient peoples were more connected to sun and moon than we are, now that we have electricity and night doesn’t mean dark.  Ancient peoples certainly knew that the sun and the moon are required for there to be “days” and “nights.”

Here’s the point: Genesis 1 is a beautiful theological treatise on creation, and for me, I don’t see it contradicting physics and cosmology; I see physics and cosmology providing the fine details and Genesis 1 the broad strokes.

 

P.S. The Best Visual Interpretation of the Bible I’ve Ever Seen

I’ve written previously about Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and shared some of my reservations about the final 15 disappointing minutes of the movie.  But this scene in which Noah retells the Genesis story of Creation and Fall is the best visual interpretation of scripture I’ve ever seen (although the image from The Minimum Bible project I included above is pretty good, too):

P.P.S. Join Us!

Folks in my church are reading through Genesis as part of our 2015 Bible reading plan.  We’d love to have you join us and make it a part of your #First15.