Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ponderings on Morgan's Murder

So, I'm sitting here at a local coffee shop in Roanoke, staring out the front window.  There's a newspaper stand a few feet from the window with a big headline: "Remains likely Tech student's." 

I was shocked and saddened when I saw it--people around here have been looking for 20-year old Morgan Harrington's remains for the past three months since she disappeared from a Metallica concert.  Apparently she was a little drunk at the concert and had gone to find a restroom. In the process she wandered out of the John Paul Jones arena there in Charlottesville, VA and when she tried to get back in they told her there was a strict no-readmission policy. 

(That strikes me because I was in that same arena a few months ago for a U2 concert. Amber and I stepped outside after the concert and when we tried to go back in to find friends we were very annoyed to be refused re-entry.)    So, she phoned her friends and told them she'd find another ride home.  Apparently she went out thumbing a ride.  Her cell phone (without a battery) and purse were found in one of the grass parking lots nearby.  Now a farmer 10 miles south of Charlottesville just found her body along the fence line in the tall grass. 

I'll be honest. After the initial shock of sadness, I immediately felt critical of Morgan. I thought, "You tried to hitch a ride home in the dark from a metal concert while wearing a mini-skirt and drunk?"   It was pretty dumb, but then I remembered that I've done some pretty thoughtless or immature things too.  And I bet if she had lived another twenty years she would have matured.

Then I thought about the guy or guys that did it.  People usually shake their heads and moan, "I can't understand how one human could do this to another."  The scary thing for me is I've always understood.  Maybe it's time with God has shed more light in the dark places of my soul, or maybe I'm just worse than others, but I know the grip a wrong desire can have on a heart. I know how stubbornly you can pursue it, and how painful the guilt and regret are the next day.  I know what it's like to try stuffing that guilt down, to get caught in cycles of bondage.  Honestly, I think we all know what I'm talking about, on one level or another, whether it was the choice to smoke just one more cigarette or the choice to lash out and say something that really hurts someone else.  There are a lot fewer steps between a "small" sin and guilty pleasure and a big one than we are comfortable knowing. 

Maybe that's one reason Jesus said, "I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart," and equated anger and hatred with murder, which can send a person to hell (Matthew 5).
Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.
                                     (John wrote this in 1 John 3:15)

The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."                     (Paul wrote this in Romans 13:9)

So, according to God, if you and me find ourselves hating or lusting, we are in the same boat as the guy who gave in to his wrong desires and harmed Morgan so permanently.  In fact, by failing to love our neighbor as ourself, we are breaking God's law.  This guy failed to love his neighbor as himself--he was self-absorbed, to put it simply. 
All that leaves me personally wide-eyed.  Don't worry, God won't forget to punish whoever did this to Morgan.  "For He who avenges blood remembers" (Psalm 9).  But unless we want to share in his punishment for lusting and murdering we should tremble and humbly ask His forgiveness ourselves. He longs to forgive us sinners, but He won't unless we turn from our sins and seek forgiveness under the blood of His Son.

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