There have been a few times in our history when we have been exposed to what we might call “true evil”. The bombings of Pearl Harbor, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, September 11, and this most recent school shooting in Connecticut come to mind. These are horrible, awful, tragedies.
And when we encounter them, our first inclination as a society seems to be to attribute these atrocities to a kind of evil that the rest of humanity is simply not capable of. These murderers are simply not like the rest of us. They are “true evil”, or they are mentally disturbed. But they are not normal. They can’t be, can they?
We are very quick to say that these mass murderers are of a kind that we are not. They are the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Bin Laden, but they are not like us. They are not normal people, good people like you and me.
But what about ourselves? America does not have clean hands in its history. We, as people living today, are not as good and normal as we might like to think. What about the internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, or the atomic bombs dropped on 2 Japanese cities killing hundreds of thousands?
We might try to justify these acts saying that they were necessary, perhaps even necessary evil, but they are evil non-the-less. It is evil committed by a nation that is arguably the most Christian-influenced nation in the Western world.
We are outraged by the slaughter of twenty innocent children in a school building. And we should be. But are we equally outraged by the murder of some 3000 children every single day by their own mothers and doctors who are duty bound to protect them? We are eager to stop the violence in schools. Are we as eager to stop the slaughter of innocent babies through the massive evil of abortion?
The problem is not that there are a few evil people out there in the world somewhere. We do not need to try and stop the Hitlers of the world. The real problem is that the seeds of this sort of evil lie within each and every human heart. And it must be suppressed, driven back, within us. This evil must be fought inside of every human being.
It is only by the grace of God that evil is not just completely rampant everywhere across the earth. If it were not for God’s Law holding back evil through the work of parents, teachers, and governments, then we would see far more Hitlers arise. We would see more massive shootings, more bombings and devastation. “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
I guess what I am trying to say is that if Hitler was not human, if the young man who killed those children and their teachers was not human, if there was something wrong with them, then there is something wrong with you and me. We are not human, at least we are not the human beings that God intended us to be from Creation. You are not human.
There is, in fact, only one man who was, and remained truly human His entire life long, throughout His entire existence. Of course Adam and Eve were human when God created them. They were exactly what He made them to be. But they forsook all of that to be something He never wanted. They gave up their humanity in the lust for evil.
Only Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God the Father, is truly human. We learned this from the Small Catechism when we confess that Jesus Christ is True God, but also True Man. It is not simply true that Jesus is human like the rest of us. He is Human like the rest of us are not.
The gospel lesson from Luke 2 illustrates this well. Jesus keeps the Law of God by being dedicated to God, “redeemed” as the Jews would have said, by His earthly parents. And He continues this perfect keeping of the Law for the rest of His life.
Jesus actively does good wherever He goes. He also passively submits, both to God and to earthly authorities. The ultimate example, of course, is found in the cross. Jesus submits to God’s will by dying as a ransom for the sins of the world. He submits to the human authorities by allowing Himself to be condemned to death by the Roman rulers of the day.
Through the life and death of Jesus we see what true humanity is to look like. We see that it is not at all what we look like. Jesus Christ is human, and we are not.
And so our humanity must be given back to us as a gift. It is the grace of God that restrains evil on the earth. More so, it is the grace of God that restores our humanity, not to the fallen image of Adam, but to the flawless image of God found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In Colossians 3 Paul teaches the people to “put on” the virtues of God. They are to put on like a garment compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and love. Just like a garment, like an article of clothing that you might have received for Christmas, these virtues do not come from within us. They come from God as a gift.
It is not merely that Jesus has shown us what true humanity looks like and now it is up to us to follow His example. The virtue of Jesus, His active love and His humble submission, has been given to us as a gift to “put on” like a new Christmas sweater.
Earlier in chapter 2 Paul tells the Colossian Christians that they have been crucified and raised with Christ through baptism. They are alive, truly human, because they have been clothed with Jesus Christ at the font of baptism. God’s Word has made it so.
And because God has now put upon us the image of His Son, He will continue to produce within us the virtues of a true man or a true woman. He will drum up within our hearts love for our fellow Christians. He will move us to forgive as we have been forgiven. He will sustain us through trials and temptations, all the while giving us the motivation to be what we are re-created to be: Truly Human.
Of course this side of the resurrection from the dead none of us will be a perfect reflection of Jesus Christ. That is why Paul entreats the Colossians to let the peace of Christ rule in their hearts, to let the word of Christ dwell richly within them.
It is through the Word of Christ delivered to us from fellow Christians, from pastors, from hymns and songs, from the Scriptures themselves, that we are brought back to life time and time again. Just like Adam and Eve, we will fall from perfection.
Only the Word of Christ can restore us. And it will restore us to the true humanity that is our in Christ.
The problem with the world is not “everyone else”. It is not just a few crazy or deranged individuals. The problem with the world is the lack of humanity in it, the lack of humanity within each and every one of us. It is the sin which dwells within.
That is why the solution must come from without. The solution is to be forgiven by the blood of Christ and restored to our humanity by His resurrection. We must be covered by the gift of Christ’s virtue, taught by His peace and His Word to forgive and love one another.
May the peace of Christ, and His Word which alone give real life, dwell in you richly today and every day. Amen.