I don’t usually like to comment on things I see in the news. Mainly because it’s easy for the reader to label me this way or that, and our “anonymous” technological communities gives us the false impression we can express our opinion and squelch others with no regard for personal understanding or civility. I typically don’t comment on the news because I try to avoid it like the plague. But today I heard the report that Ariel Castro, the man who kidnapped and kept captive three women in Ohio, committed suicide in his prison cell yesterday, and it struck me.
I don’t want to spend much time on Castro, per se. What he did was pure evil in my mind. It takes a sadistic, cruel, and ultimately broken individual to commit the acts he did. I can see how he might not want to continue to face the reality of his actions on this mortal plane. We will never know the full story of this man and his depravity, but it makes me sad to imagine what led him to the life he created.
What troubles me more is how I see people reacting to the news of his death. Many say that he deserved to die, that he was a coward, that taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for him to live in prison anyway, and that they hope he suffers in the fires of hell. As evil as I think this man was, I struggle with this response to his death.
When we react to news like this, the tables are turned and the story becomes not about him, but about us. Quickly, we become the ones who are cruel and sadistic, seeking pleasure out of a human being’s death. We think that because we’re not the ones who committed his atrocious acts that we’re somehow more entitled to God’s mercy and love. I know this because these thoughts have crossed my mind when I have heard of a notorious villain dying.
But there’s a slippery slope here. When we start thinking that people like Castro get what he deserves, then soon our thoughts can easily spiral to a level we once despised. Guys like Castro obviously don’t value human life, and when we don’t value theirs, we can slip into their folly. Most of us would never act on that kind of hatred, but it still infects our hearts.
So here’s the big question: Is God’s mercy big enough? We really don’t know. I see Scripture point to a love that is much more expansive than our justice systems. I read about Jesus dining with the worst of human society. I see Jesus inviting a bandit into the Kingdom in his very last moments. I hear him forgive us for not knowing what we’re doing. I don’t know what Jesus will do with Ariel Castro. But I do know now that Jesus can do something with me. Instead of damning people to hell, which only really damns me, I can turn my heart to compassion for them. I can pray for them, their families, and their victims. I can ask forgiveness for the times I have walked on the slippery slope that sent them plummeting into darkness.
Artist Charlie Peacock wrote a song called “In the Light” that was covered by the Christian band DC Talk in the ’90s. When I hear news like the above, it makes me recall this song. Perhaps it can be our prayer today.
On my own, apart from you
I am the king of excuses
I`ve got one for every selfish thing I doWhat’s going on inside of me?
I despise my own behavior
This only serves to confirm my suspicions
That I’m still a man in need of a saviour
I wanna be in the light as you are in the light
I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
Lord be my light and my salvation
All I want is to be in the light of love
All I want is to be in the light
The disease of the self runs through my blood
Like a cancer fatal to the soul
Every attempt on my behalf has failed
To bring the sickness under control