It’s been a full week now since the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon, and it seems like everyone has chimed in since then with their own explanation of how something like this could happen. Most people are trying to find some sort of explanation that will give them hope. They want to believe that their world is safe, that people are basically good, and that we’re on a path to becoming a better society in general. They imagine themselves as the “good” people, and these terrorists as “bad.” But if this were the full story, how do we reconcile all the reports coming from others who personally knew the bombers? They all remember these boys as normal kids, good kids, seemingly incapable of ever committing such an atrocity. They remember these bombers in much the same way that we think of our own friends—and think of ourselves. They are all shocked that such nice boys could do something so evil.
The reality is, apart from the regenerative work of Christ in our hearts, we are all capable of unspeakable evil. Every one of us here on Earth is born full of sin and has the potential for unimaginable wickedness. Every one of us. Our hearts are born literally addicted to sin. And just like any other addiction, it will continually take more and more to satisfy. In the same way no one starts a life of drug use by shooting heroin, no one wakes up one day and decides to plant a bomb in a crowd.
Unfortunately, there are a few hard memories from my own story which illustrate this point all to well:
- I remember reaching a point where I could no longer feel emotions. I had been hiding and ignoring my emotions for so long as a means to conceal my addiction that they had atrophied. The scariest thing about losing the ability to feel your emotions is you also lose your ability to properly sense any guilt or conviction. I had regressed emotionally to the point where I could watch my own wife cry about the pain I was causing her and literally feel nothing. I had lost the ability to feel empathy, which, at least by definition, meant I had become a psychopath. This didn’t happen overnight of course. It was a long process of unrepentant sin over the span of many years that had brought me to this point.
- The worst day of my addiction started out just like any other day. Through a series of minor compromises and major lapses in judgement though, I ended up in bed with another woman that evening. If you had asked me that very morning if I would ever commit adultery, I would have told you I was incapable of it. It’s not like I woke up and said “I’m going to destroy my wife with my selfish actions today.” But nonetheless, I did. My pornography addiction had become a full-blown sexual addiction. And again, this wasn’t instant. It was the result of years of small steps in the wrong direction.
Both of these examples show how even a “good” person can be capable of unimaginable evil if they don’t deal with the sin in their hearts. We can say that we are good people all we want, but if don’t find the true answer of how to deal with our sinful natures, we are likely to come face-to-face with the full potential of our sinfulness in extremely painful ways. For me, my sin manifested sexually and blew up my marriage. For these brothers in Boston, their sin manifested through anger and hatred and blew up innocent people.
Folks, this is the reason why we see bombings, school shootings, and unimaginable pain on a regular basis. We are not good people. No one is. The worst part though, is there is nothing we can do about it. But God loves every last one of us so much, He sent His own Son, Jesus, to pay the price for the sinfulness within us. Jesus is our salvation. So it’s not what we can do to take care of our sin problem, it’s what Jesus already did.
Jesus didn’t just cover the penalty of your sin by His death. He also offers you a new, pure, life-filled heart through His resurrection. He can give you a completely new nature. He can actually make you a good person! This is the answer to the world’s problems my friends. Getting rid of guns won’t change anything. Education and tolerance won’t change anything. Policies, laws, rallies, etc. None of this will ever make a significant difference in our world as long as men’s hearts are still full of wickedness and sin. The only thing that will ever change our world, is for the hearts of men to change. And the only way the hearts of men will ever change, is through the work of Jesus Christ, which is available to everyone. This is the good news of the gospel.
You still need convincing that people can truly change? Well, I just got my own proof yesterday. We did a Myers Briggs personality test with my entire office and I found out I am an ENFJ—an Extroverted Feeler. If you aren’t familiar with what that means, let me point out a few descriptors:
- Highly attuned to others
- Focus is on supporting others and encouraging their growth
- Uses empathy to understand other’s emotional needs
- Devoted to helping others grow
Does this sound like someone who has shut down their emotions and is trapped in the self-focus of addiction? Not at all. If you were to give this description to anyone who knew me three years ago and told them it was my personality type, they would think you were smoking crack. For me, this was scientific proof that I am now a completely new person after putting my faith in Jesus and experiencing the renewing of my heart.
The most amazing thing is I never decided to try to become a better person. I didn’t vow to work hard at developing empathy or putting the needs of other’s first. It just happened. Jesus gave me a new heart, and my behavior changed automatically. I am still human. I am still capable of sin. But the difference is my heart is now full of the love of Christ. Even a non-religious, science-based personality test can see it. Jesus has transformed me into an outwardly focused, heart-driven, lover of others.
Yes, we are all capable or horrendous acts and we all need a solution to the sin in our hearts. But regardless of if we’re talking about the capability within men to plant an explosive bomb in a crowd, or to plant a trauma bomb in their marriage, the answer will always be the same:
We all need Jesus to change our hearts.
Only then will the world see change.