When the Bad Guy Dies

Confession: Every once in a while, I like to read a western. You know, an old Louis L’Amour story with a good guy, a bad guy, and all their friends and enemies scheming and fighting over–something.

I’m not perfectly certain why I like them. I like that the good guy always wins over ominous odds. I like the excitement, I suppose. I like the characters’ capability to handle whatever situation confronts them. I like the beautiful, dangerous, wild land where the story unfolds. I like the code of honor, so to speak, that all the decent characters adhere to.

Anyway, I enjoy them. But, honestly, it’s a purely superficial enjoyment. Because, when I stop to analyze the story, there isn’t much that’s worth holding on to. Let me explain.

Many of the fights start over land. Or cattle. Or power.

And even the good guy is prepared to kill people–people with immortal souls–over land, or cattle, or power. None of which will be worth the powder in a cartridge when he meets his Maker. All the land he deeply loves, all the power he wields will mean nothing when he stands before God to give account of his deeds done in the flesh.

Now, generally, the good guy will eventually shift his goal. Instead of fighting for the land, he starts fighting because the bad guy is just plain wicked, often stealing something from someone who can’t defend himself–or herself. (Throw a bit of romance in; it helps the story immensely.)

So the good guy takes the side of justice, and law, and human kindness. Admirable. In fact, the Bible advocates it.

‘Thus says the LORD: “Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

-Jeremiah 22:3 (NKJV)

But. (You knew there was a ‘but’ coming, right?)

But the bad guy still has an immortal soul. A soul Jesus died to save. A soul the Lord loves.

In the end, he dies. (Once in a while, they let him depart in disgrace.) And, yes, the bad guy deserves to die. The good guy is decidedly in the right. By all human law, all human morality and decency, the bad guy deserves what’s coming to him.

But, in the eyes of the Lord, the good guy is just as sinful as the bad guy.

God doesn’t place degrees of wickedness on sin. The bad guy kills; the good guy cusses. Sin is sin compared to the holiness of God.

Now I’m not saying the bad guy shouldn’t pay for his crimes. I’m not even saying he shouldn’t die.

I’m saying that a Christian should never be casual about a person’s death.

Even if the person needs to die–even if it’s not a pointless death as regularly happens in westerns–his soul still plunges into eternity, unready to face the Lord. That should never be a nonchalant event. But in the western, it always is.

So what am I trying to say though this rambling?

I’m reminding myself that, with God, it’s all about souls.

Not land. Not money. Not power. Not even personal rights. It’s about souls surrendering to their Creator.

Is it really worth killing someone to stay on land I legitimately own? Well, many factors influence that question, but I dare to say: “Not always.” If I’m fighting for others, like my family, perhaps. If I’m fighting to stop someone who will only do worse if allowed to succeed at small crimes, perhaps. But if I’m fighting for only myself, maybe I need to give up.

Because what really matters is not what I want, or what I think is right. What matters is what is important to God–saving souls.

Of course, none of this is even relevant to our times. (I hope.) So why write a weblog post about it?

Good question.

Because, as innocent as entertainment may be, it will subtly influence my thinking. Whether I like it or not. Whether I realize it or not. I can’t keep putting this stuff in and expect to have no alteration in my thoughts. The brain doesn’t work that way.

I have only so much time for entertainment in life. I want the best entertainment–stuff I don’t have to filter too closely to make sure it’s not influencing me the wrong way.

That’s why at the top, I said, “Every once in a while.” Maybe it doesn’t hurt to breeze through an old western on a rainy afternoon.

But it pays to be aware.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

-1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV)

-Miss Darcy


A Book Called ‘The Giver’

A year or two ago our family read aloud a book for school:  The Giver by Lois Lowry.  The story is set in a futuristic Community where pain, suffering, and sorrow have been eliminated through rules, science, and a mystic power known as ‘receiving memory.’  I’m not much for sci-fi or fantasy, but The Giver made me think, and I appreciate that in a book.

In order to eliminate discomfort, the Community does not remember all the bad things that have happened in the past.  One person, the Receiver of Memory, holds all the memories of Before, all the pain and pleasure of freedom.  When he gets old, he must pass on these memories to a successor, else they will be released to come back and haunt members of the Community.  (It’s as weird as it gets, I know, but stick with me.)  The protagonist of the story, Jonas, is chosen to be the next Receiver of Memory and his predecessor becomes known as the Giver.

Jonas is amazed to discover color, the ocean, and other delights through the memories.  The thrill of sledding down a snowy hill is like nothing he has ever known, and he cannot understand why it was outlawed in the Community.  Until the Giver shares the memory of a wrecking sled, in which Jonas experiences the pain of a broken leg.

Jonas discovers that all good gifts bring risk.  Take, for example, romantic love.  If you fall in love with someone, the joy and pleasure are difficult to equal.  But supposing that person betrays your love, in a small way or in a deep way.  The pain can be heart-rending.  That is why in the Community, romantic love is forbidden.  The stirrings, as they term attraction for the opposite sex, are quelled with drugs taken daily.  Marriage partners are assigned, and children, delivered by professional “birth-mothers,” are assigned to family units, no more than two children per couple.  But when Jonas has experienced the memories of natural family, united in love, he wants everyone to be able to experience it for real.

Of course, real families are not perfect.  If you give them the freedom to choose love and kindness, the individuals might choose selfishness and hurt one another.  In order to avoid that hurt, the Community has eliminated the real family.  Throughout the story, the Community is focused on analyzing emotions and working through them so that no one is unhappy.  But all their so-called feelings, with their carefully chosen words to identify them, are plastic, sterile, and fake.

In truth, all good things come with risk.  In the world where we live, where mankind’s sin has corrupted God’s perfect creation, we have to choose whether the good we want is worth the pain we might experience.  Whether it is worthwhile to go sledding when we might wreck.  Whether it is worthwhile to love others who may not love us back.  Whether it is worthwhile to follow Jesus even when He will ask us to do something uncomfortable.

I would rather know pain in its fearful reality if it means I may also know joy in its abundance.  We don’t have to enter a restrictive Community to dull our feelings.  We can teach ourselves indifference and make our hearts calloused to protect ourselves from pain.  But we will also dilute our joy.

This year, I want to learn from the Lord how to live fully engaged, as He created me to live.

-Miss Darcy