37531148It was really embarrassing. When we came out of the movie theatre after watching ‘Schindler’s List’, my date showed me her hand. It was the hand I held throughout the movie. And it was all red, swollen from the pressure I had put on it. Spielberg’s account of the Holocaust was that disturbing.

I also remembered that throughout the movie, one thought came to me. Given the right circumstances I could have done what the Nazis’ did to the Jews. It must have been a divinely inspired thought because I am neither that smart nor that holy. The thought surprised me but it felt true and I have remembered it to this day.

When one group of human beings has absolute power over another group, it brings out the worst in us. Perhaps we are not qualified to wield such god-like authority. Definitely not after the Fall.

There have been many recent reminders of this. In Malaysia there has been a highly publicized case of an Indonesian maid who was horribly abused by her employers. She received numerous wounds, including multiple burns all over her body. And of course there have been the shocking pictures and stories from Abu Ghraib.

The accounts of torture from Abu Ghraib were particularly ironic as the US led coalition was supposed to free the country from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. We need to say that what happened at Abu Ghraib was wrong. Human beings are not to treat their follows in this way. But I am hesitant to be too vocal in any anti-US rhetoric. Not because I necessarily agree with all that they are doing in Iraq, but because I suspect that there is a Saddam Hussein in all of us.

Is there a Christian response to the ever-growing accounts of man’s inhumanity to man that accost us everyday? I think there is. Even the ‘anything goes’ approach of popular post-modernism is silent in the face of obvious human brutality. It may be a good time to talk about the Law.

In his article on the Mosaic law in the EVANGELICAL DICTIONARY OF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY, Joe M. Sprinkle gives us a number of ways that the Mosaic law is still of value in the Christian era.

He reminds us that ‘the Law is of value for jurisprudence.'(1Timothy 1:8-11) The Law and teachings like it continue to be the basis for ethics and morality in society. Christians must continue to speak out clear and loud that there are certain actions that are totally wrong. You cannot burn another human being with an iron. You cannot coat him with excreta and ask him to eat his meal from a toilet bowl.

And even if the Geneva convention for treating prisoners of war needs to be updated, some similar document must still be there governing how we act even in times of war. To do any less is to run the risk of losing our humanity.

Sprinkle also reminds us that the Law ‘prepares sinners for the gospel.’ (Romans 3:20; 7:7) Explosions of human cruelty disgust and shock. How can people do such things? How could things like Holocaust and the killing Fields of Cambodia happen? It is tempting to distance ourselves from the perpetrators of such heinous acts.

But deep down there is the silent realization that all human beings share the same DNA, including the same spiritual and moral DNA. It’s not just “how can they do such things?” It’s ” how can we do such things?”

There is something horribly wrong with humanity. And we have to let go of the illusion that science or technology or education, can save us. The problem is deeper. It is the problem of sin. It affects all off us. And the only solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sprinkle also points out that the Law ‘is a guide for Christian living.’ “The believer, through the Spirit, keeps the righteous requirements of the Law (Romans 8:3-4)?” In doing so Sprinkle reminds us that the problem is just not out there. Daily we have to choose to walk by the Spirit and not give in to the sinful and sometimes murderous and cruel impulses of the flesh.

I am humbled by the example of the recent Rwandan atrocities. Between April and June 1994, 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. (BBC News World Edition, 1 April 2004) Yet a mighty Christian revival broke out in the same area in the 1930s and continued for 50 years. This was part of the famous East African Revival. How can spiritual vitality turn to demonic homicide virtually overnight?

I, for one, am not pointing any fingers at my Rwandan brothers and sisters, silently gloating under some illusion of spiritual superiority. I am too aware that I am faced with the choice between the flesh and the Spirit every moment of my life, and that I am only too prone to spiritual carelessness. God has been merciful but I have fallen asleep at the wheel too often for comfort.

It is painful to open the papers every morning. Page after page, we are assaulted by stories of human cruelty. We can desensitize ourselves and grow calluses around our hearts. Or we can see the moment for what it is. As Dr. Waltke, one of my professors in Regent, used to remind us, the light of God’s grace shines brightest against the backdrop of human depravity.

These may be dark days, but dark days are excellent days for spring-cleaning idols from our hearts. Dark days remind us that there is true hope, but that hope does not lie with the cleverness of humankind. It lies with God, who in His deep compassion has come to us as Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.

Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. No follower of mine shall walk in darkness; he shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12b REB) More than ever, we need to appropriate that light for ourselves and for others.

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan