Yesterday, a terrible tragedy struck Northern Nevada. Many of you have probably seen the news about a man who fired on several people, ultimately killing four of them, before taking his own life. Five of the people who were shot were Nevada Army National Guardsman, three of which died. Many find themselves utterly dumbfounded by this evil act. Of course, compounding the issue is that, with the death of the shooter, we may never know why he did it. There is a tremendous sadness, and even anger over this tragedy. In fact, one commenter on a news website summed his anger toward the shooter by stating, “I hope God doesn’t show you mercy. I hope you rot in Hell.”
I have found myself thinking about that phrase over the last twenty-four hours. What should we think of someone who has committed such an atrociously evil act? Should we truly desire for someone to “rot in hell?” Should we really desire that God never show that person mercy? Ultimately, I believe the answer is no.
Why should I make such a statement? Isn’t God just? Doesn’t He say that He will punish evil? Yes, God is just, and yes, He does punish evil. In fact, I think we should be grateful that God will punish the great evils committed in this world, that no deed done in darkness will escape His sight. But I also believe that very same justice should make us fear and tremble.
The problem is that when we state that we want God to show no mercy, that we actually want someone to rot in Hell, we acknowledge that person deserves punishment, but we imply we are not as bad as them and, thus, we deserve God’s mercy. In other words, we are saying, “You deserve Hell, but I deserve Heaven.” We somehow think that the sins we have committed really aren’t that bad, and God should be willing to forgive us. But, that other guy, no way, I want him sent straight to Hell!
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of sin. In our eyes, a “white lie” or the stealing of a small item, like a candy bar, are very small offenses. Really, they don’t make us “bad people,” we just made a “mistake.” But that guy who killed all those people, he really is evil and deserves no mercy! But is that how God views it? Does He divide our sins up that way?
Revelation 21:8 tells us, “…and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone…” Also, 1 Corinthians 6:10 states, “…nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” So even those of us who simply told a lie now and then, or took something that wasn’t ours, are going to be held guilty before God, and are just as deserving of Hell.
This changes our perspective, does it not? If we are to be held in judgment the same as a murderer, should we be so quick to declare that God should show no mercy. If God withheld mercy from the murderer, then His justice demands the same of us. But the simple truth is, neither we nor the murderer deserve mercy from God. Yet, in His love for us, God made a way for us to receive mercy.
God cannot overlook sin, He must judge it. Yet He desires for us to spend eternity with Him. To accomplish this, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take on human flesh, live a life of perfection in thought, word and deed, and then to willingly suffer and die on the cross for sins He did not commit. In doing so, Christ paid the price that we all owe for our sins. Yet, three days later, He rose from the grave, proving His power over death and giving us a promise of eternal life. Now if we will humble ourselves, confess our sins and turn from them (to repent) and place our faith in Christ, our debt will be paid and we will be seen as righteous before God. Mercy in this manner us not deserved, but is given out of God’s gracious love.
As God’s love is demonstrated in this manner, we should mourn the death of any sinner who rejected the free gift of salvation. Because we are as deserving of Hell as they were, we must understand we have no more hope of salvation than they did out of our own works. Yet, if we truly repent and trust in Christ, we escape the fires of Hell only by God’s grace. Thus, we should be grateful when evil is rightly judged by God, but we should mourn the loss of yet another sinner to Hell.
Earlier in this article I wrote that three of those who died were Nevada National Guardsman. I return to this for a very important reason, I once served in the Nevada National Guard. I completed my tour only seven years ago. I have great love and admiration for those who continue to serve and count them as my brethren. When this tragedy occurred yesterday, to say I was hurt by their loss would be an understatement. Yet, despite my personal connection to the victims, I cannot help but to mourn another sinner who is now likely in the pits of Hell.
I ask you readers to consider your stance before God today. You may think your life before God is pretty good, you may be nothing like the evil man who committed this terrible act. Yet, in God’s eyes, your “minor” sins are just as deserving of His judgment. If you have not done so, please repent and place your faith in Christ today. Let us not mourn the judgment of yet another sinner.