Note: If you have not read the Light and Dark series (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) I recommend you do as a context for what follows. I believe that an understanding of this truth will dramatically affect both our understanding, and our sharing of the Gospel.
A Fox News story today reports that convicted serial killer David Berkowitz, also known as "Son of Sam," said he has "no interest" in parole thanks to forgiveness by Jesus Christ. It reports that Berkowitz—who terrorized New York in the late 1970s, killing six people and wounding seven—will not seek parole during his next opportunity in May. According to the article, he wrote Fox News, “I have no interest in parole and no plans to seek release . . . If you could understand this, I am already a 'free man.' I am not saying this jokingly. I really am. Jesus Christ has already forgiven and pardoned me, and I believe this.”
Now, I recognize that there is a lot of scepticism about prison conversions (I have almost never met with someone in jail who hasn’t said God got a hold of them this time and it is the last, but few have made significant and lasting changes toward God when they are out). I don’t know David personally, but I do know that there is much more to be said, and read, about him and his conversion. He even has a web page where he writes devotionals called www.ariseandshine.org. But, setting any skepticism aside (and in NO way saying what he did was not horrible or that God doesn't think it horrible), and assuming for the sake of this post that his conversion is real, this is a story almost guaranteed to reveal deep down your and my understanding of the holiness of God, the condition of man, the Gospel, and of Light and Darkness.
If you, as a Christian, struggle with the fact that this man will share Heaven with you while your neighbor, who gives to charity and does “good” deeds won’t as of now, you may not fully understand how God sees Light and Darkness. Likewise, if you are not a Christian, and you struggle with the idea of this man being eternally in Heaven and you being eternally in Hell, you probably don’t understand Light and Darkness.
At this point in my life and studies I believe that the major problem and obstacle to our understanding of the Gospel lies in defining good and bad by a moral measuring stick and not by God’s presence in it or absence from it. We must remember that the Bible says that the Light came into the Darkness, and that men loved darkness because of their wicked deeds and so rejected the Light. There are only two kinds of people—those in the Light and those in Darkness, and God’s reign is the defining mark. Colossians 1:13-14 says of God, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The “domain [rule] of darkness” and the “wicked deeds” Jesus talks about in John, Chapter 3, apply to even those family and friends and neighbors who do “good” deeds. I believe we struggle with this because we want to measure ourself against others, and fail to see the vast distance we all are from God and the utter darkness of absence from Him.
I can not adequately explore this in a single post, and I will talk about this more in the coming days, but we must be very, very careful to not fall into the trap of looking left and right to define Light and Dark, and good and evil, instead of looking up to Him. He is the line, He is the mark, He is the litmus test, He is the measure. He is the life. We were created for relationship with Him, and we chose the knowledge of good and evil. WE chose a moral code. WE chose a set of rules that make it possible to live independent of His leading. HE created us for intimate, moment-by-moment relationship with Him and WE chose a path that made us “like God”—able to define right and wrong on our own. We MUST understand, HE is the measure, HE is life, and anything apart from Him and relationship with Him is Darkness and death. It may have the appearance, and even intention of good, but He alone is life. And, so, we come again to that place where “wicked deeds” are not defined by a moral measuring stick, but by His absence where we have replaced His rule with self-rule, and separated ourselves from Him. We will never grasp this if insist on believing good can exist apart from Him.
I know that this is a lot, and that I run the risk of offending people with such a limited explanation, but hang in there. More next time, but until then, may His love be felt strongly by you.