Posts tagged ‘Wickedness’

Castro’s Death and the Christian’s Hope

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When news first came a little over a week ago that the longtime brutal dictator of the island nation of Cuba, Fidel Castro, had died, the reactions to his death ranged from the viscerally ecstatic to the weirdly and inappropriately sublime.  Many reports simply sought to chronicle the events of Castro’s life without much moral commentary, but, as Christians, we know that a man who, over the course of his raucous reign, murdered, according to one Harvard-trained economist, close to 78,000 people is due at least some sort of moral scrutiny.  As Cuba concludes a time of mourning over the death of a man who himself brought much death, I humbly offer these few thoughts on how we, as Christians, should ethically process the life of one of history’s most famous and infamous leaders.

We should not be afraid to call wickedness what it is.

It is true that there were some bright spots in the midst of Castro’s morally dark oppression of Cuba.  Cuba’s literacy rate, for instance, stands at 99.8 percent thanks to its government’s emphasis on education.  It has also been reported that the robust healthcare system there has resulted in one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world at 5.8 deaths per 1,000 births, although The Wall Street Journal has called this number into question.

Whatever good Castro may have done should not excuse or serve as rationalization for his gruesome human rights violations.  As ABC News reports:

Over the course of Castro’s rule, his regime rounded up people for nonviolent opposition to his government and subjected many to torture and decades-long imprisonment.

In a January 1967 interview with Playboy magazine, Castro admitted there were 20,000 “counter-revolutionary criminals” in Cuba’s prisons…

Under his dictatorship, Castro arrested dissidents and gay citizens and forced them into labor or prison, according to human rights groups. He is also responsible for mass executions of people who spoke out against his government.

There is simply no way to mask or minimize the atrocities that Castro committed.  They were – and are – evil.  As Christians, we should be willing to call evil for what it is – not only for the sake of upholding moral standards, but for the sake of being honest about the way in which Castro’s immorality took countless human lives.

We should remember those who Castro brutalized and pay attention to those who are currently being brutalized.

The website cubaarchive.org is devoted to remembering those Castro murdered.  The stories in the “Case Profiles” section of the site are heart-rending.  In one case, a tugboat carrying children was intentionally sunk by order of Castro himself because the people on it were trying to escape Cuba.  In another case, U.S. citizen Francis Brown was given a lethal injection at a Guantanamo hospital that ultimately killed him while, on that same day, his daughter’s full term unborn child was murdered by doctors at a Havana hospital.  These stories should not be forgotten.  These are victims who should not fade into the recesses of history, for they remind us who Fidel Castro really was – an egomaniacal madman with no regard for any life besides his own.

These stories should also lead us to seek justice for those currently suffering under oppressive and brutal regimes.  The stories of people in places like Syria, Iraq, and Sudan should demand our attention and touch our hearts.

Though we should not eulogize Castro’s life, we also should not revel in his death.

It is understandable that many have celebrated the death of a despot like Castro.  Indeed, Scripture understands and points to this reality: “When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy” (Proverbs 11:10).  But even if this is an understandable and natural reaction to the death of a dictator, we do well to remember that God’s reaction to the death of the wicked is more measured: “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways” (Ezekiel 33:11)!  God refuses to rejoice at the death of the wicked because He understands that such rejoicing ultimately serves no purpose. For when the wicked die, they stand eternally lost and condemned.  This helps no one and fixes nothing.  This is why God’s preference is not death, but repentance.  Death is merely the result of wickedness.  Repentance is the remedy to wickedness.  God would much prefer to fix wickedness than to let it run its course.

As Christians, we are called to mimic God’s character in our responses to the death of the wicked: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn His wrath away from them” (Proverbs 24:17-18).  These verses caution us not to revel in the death of an enemy while also reminding us that God will render a just judgment on the wicked.  And God’s justice is better than our jeers. 

We should find our hope in the One over whose death the world once reveled.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of God’s refusal to rejoice in the death of the wicked is the fact that the wicked once reveled in the death of His perfectly righteous Son.  The Gospel writer Mark records that when Jesus was on the cross:

Those who passed by hurled insults at Him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save Yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked Him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but He can’t save Himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  (Mark 15:29-32)

For God not to rejoice in the death of the wicked when the wicked rejoiced in the death of His Son reveals not only God’s gracious character, but His perfect plan.  For God deigned that, by the mocking of the wicked, wickedness itself should be defeated.  Indeed, at the very moment the wicked thought they had succeeded in defeating God’s Holy One, God’s Holy One had accomplished His mission of opening salvation to the wicked.  Our hope, then, is not in the death of a wicked man, but in the crucifixion of a righteous One.  His righteousness is stronger than Castro’s wickedness.  That is the reason we can rejoice.

December 5, 2016 at 5:15 am 2 comments

ABC Extra – Heart Cleaning

When I was a little kid, one of the places my dad used to take me was the zoo.  I loved to see the animals – the bears, the giraffes, the elephants, and the otters.  I especially liked the otters.  They always seemed so playful and energetic.  But as much as I enjoyed seeing the animals, they were never my favorite part of my zoo trips.  No, the highlight of these trips was always my ride on the zoo train.  At my local zoo, they had a real, coal burning, steam engine which ran a mile long trek around the perimeter of the zoo grounds.  And I loved to ride it.  The wail of the train whistle, the chug, chug, chug of the pistons, and the waft of the smoke rising from the train’s stack always mesmerized me.  I also loved the open-air cars.  There was nothing like having the wind blow in your face as lots of beautiful scenery whizzed by beside you.  In fact, I always wanted to hang my head out the side of the car and feel the wind rush through my hair.  But in each car, they had these notices posted: “Please remain seated and keep your hands and arms inside the car until the ride has come to a complete stop.”  I despised these notices.  And my dad would never allow me to fudge the rules…not one bit.  Whenever I’d try to stick my hand out the side of the car to feel the breeze, my dad would grab it and point it up to the notice.  I could look at the scenery whizzing by outside, but I could not stick my hand out the window to get closer to it.  I had to keep my hands to myself.

In worship and ABC this weekend, we looked at the story of a sinful woman who comes to anoint Jesus as He is dining with a Pharisee named Simon.  As I mentioned in ABC, many scholars believe this woman not only lived a sinful life, but a scandalous one as a prostitute.  When Simon sees this woman weeping over Jesus and pouring perfume on Him, Simon mutters to himself, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39).  Simon is upset that this sinful woman would dare to touch Jesus…and that Jesus would allow her to do so!  In fact, from this, Simon deduces that Jesus cannot be a true prophet – for a true prophet would never let a sinful woman come into contact with Him.  Simon believes this woman should keep her hands and arms inside her own little space at all times.  She should keep her hands to herself.

According to Old Testament law, coming into contact with something or someone which was physically, spiritually, or ceremonially unclean rendered you unclean.  For instance, Moses writes:

If a person touches anything ceremonially unclean – whether the carcasses of unclean wild animals or of unclean livestock or of unclean creatures that move along the ground – even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty.  Or if he touches human uncleanness – anything that would make him unclean – even though he is unaware of it, when he learns of it he will be guilty. (Leviticus 5:2-3)

Moses is warning, “Be careful what you touch!  Because if you touch the wrong thing, you will get the wrong result – you will be rendered ‘unclean’!”  So please keep your hands and arms inside your own little space at all times.  Keep your hands to yourself.

A touch can defile.  This was the way the religious leaders viewed sinfulness and righteousness, uncleanness and purity.  This is why Simon is so upset with Jesus.  After all, He is allowing a clearly unclean prostitute to defile His ceremonial cleanness without so much as a wince!  Jesus, however, knows better about purity and uncleanness:

Nothing outside a man can make him “unclean” by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him “unclean.”  For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man “unclean.” (Mark 7:15, 21-23)

Jesus knows that a sinful woman cannot defile a pure person, for a person becomes sinful not because of some external source of wickedness, but because of his own sinful heart! The Lutheran Confessions explain, “Neither sin nor righteousness should be placed in meat, drink, clothing and like things” (Apology XXVIII 7).  These external things cannot defile us.  It is our own hearts which make us wicked.

This sinful woman’s touch does not defile Jesus’ purity.  But Jesus’ purity does cleanse this sinful woman.  Jesus announces to her, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48).   This woman’s sinfulness is no match for Jesus’ forgiveness.  And the same is true for us.  We are cleansed through faith in Christ!

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

October 24, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

A Christian Response to the Death of Osama bin Laden

Concordia’s Senior Pastor, Bill Tucker, has written a letter to the congregation concerning the death of Osama bin Laden and how the Christian should respond to such an event. My prayer is that it is helpful to you as you ponder what this event means not only in the life of our nation, but in your life as a Christian.

My Beloved Concordia Family,

The death of Osama bin Laden was reported on Sunday evening, May 1, 2011.  As news of his demise spread, people responded in different ways.  Some responded with jubilation, happy to see an enemy of our country destroyed.  Others felt sorrow:  Bin Laden’s death reopened painful scars from the events of 9/11 and losses suffered in our War on Terror.  Still others responded with concern: For the evil in this world, ultimately, will not be defeated by human action, but by Christ alone.  Perhaps you, like me, have experienced some of each.

As I have been sorting through my own personal response, there have been many from our beloved family of faith doing the same.  How should a Christian respond to the death of Osama bin Laden?  Hopefully this brief note, with some guidance from God’s Word, will be helpful in your contemplation of that same question.

From the Bible we learn that death, even the death of the wicked, is not pleasing to God, nor is it part of His design.  The prophet Ezekiel states it well:  “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)  God’s preference is always that the wicked – even Osama bin Laden – repent and be forgiven.  This does not mean, however, that God won’t execute His judgment on those who refuse to repent.  In the very next verse, Ezekiel continues, “But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die.” (Ezekiel 18:24)  The apostle Paul affirms, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)  God punishes evil.

We also know that God uses earthly governments to execute His judgment.  Paul writes, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…He is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He [the governmental authority] is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:1, 4) We can conclude, in circumstances like this, God uses governments and militaries to bring judgment on criminals.  We remain thankful for our troops and their service on behalf of our nation and respect their God-given vocation as governmental officials.

Finally, as Christians, our response to the death of the wicked should mirror God’s Word.  The wise man of Proverbs wrote:  “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.” (Proverbs 24:17)  These words lead us to respond to this news without reckless jubilation, but with measured sobriety. We thank God for His judgment on wickedness.  At the same time, we keep our hearts and minds humble, so we do not slip into arrogance and sin.

In these times, it seems certain there will be more terrorist plots.  We must pray for these evil efforts to be confounded, for evil men to be brought to justice, and for peace and security to be reestablished.  However, when we pray for peace, it is with the knowledge that our hope comes from the Lord.

Abraham Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, describes the Christian’s hope for peace, even in the midst of war, like this:  “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”  May this be the prayer of us all.

God Bless You!


Bill Tucker
Senior Pastor

May 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm 3 comments


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