Saturday, August 02, 2008

Senselessness and Grace

By now the world is well aware of the horrible murder committed against Tim McLean by Vince Weiguang Li on a Greyhound bus, about an hour from where I live.

From all accounts, it was an unprovoked, random attack.

What baffles me is why it has become such a hot topic of conversation. Everywhere you go, every global news site you visit: everybody wants to talk about how horrific it is.

Why is that?

Gruesome crimes happen all the time. Perhaps this one stands out because it was so public, with so many stunned witnesses. But to me the most disturbing thing is that it was a completely passionless crime. The killer had no grievance against the victim that we know of. They were complete strangers. What can happen in a man's mind to cause him to lash out so randomly, so calmly, and with such horrific intensity?

A likely culprit is mental illness. I'm also sure that I'm not the only person of faith who wonders if the occult or some manifestation of the forces of darkness played a part. But whatever the cause, the most frightening part of the story for me is that the killer is human, just like me.

The ancient Roman playwright Terence observed, "I am a man: I hold that nothing human is alien to me." Or to put it another way: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

For as insanely wicked as this murder was, if I am really honest with myself, I am forced to admit that I know I have the capacity for the same evil acts. I am a human being; I can fall into any sin, I can succumb to any temptation I face, I can horrify an entire world with my deeds.

But by the same token: I am a human being; I can rise above any sin, I can overcome any temptation I face, I can inspire an entire world with my deeds.

This profound truth applies to us all. This is how God has designed us - to be capable of incredible villainy, and to be capable of great acts of selfless love. This is why I have hope. No matter how far gone I think I am, I have it within myself to turn on a dime with a single act of will (multiple times, if necessary, which it is), and to surrender my life to the loving Creator who has a plan for sublime joy for each of us - even someone as deeply disturbed as Mr. Li.

The best part is that God himself gives me strength to make this turn, and to hold the course once I make it. And there is no limit on renewal; any time I fall, he will restore me to his presence, if I only seek him out with a sincere heart. All I have to do is echo the obedient words of Mary, the mother of Jesus: "Let is be done unto me according to your word."

Or more simply, "Yes."

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