The Word on the Street - 7.13.2023
The great, great, great grandson of Cain, Lamech, boasted to his wives of killing a young man in Genesis 4:23-24: "If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”
Meaning a geometric progression of the punishment Lamech thought God would avenge upon the one who killed him (Gen 4:15), perhaps because Lamech was 11 times worse than Cain, who tried to conceal his crime rather than brag about it.
It is only worse today. How many mass shootings? How loud has the voice from the spilled blood (Gen 4:10) on the ground become, echoing in His ears, crying to Him from the ground a curse upon our land?
The Sunken Gardens
Robert told us that his girlfriend had been brutally murdered, but that they had the killer in custody, deserving of the death sentence by Pennsylvania law if convicted and if Pennsylvania law enforcement still carried out executions. He described in detail the pain and suffering inflicted upon this poor woman before she died. It was heart-sickening.
She was killed in broad daylight on a cold December morning in 2022, 30 degrees and snow on the ground. She was an addict so perhaps her killer lured her to the place of her death by promising to get her high.
When he got her alone in the Sunken Gardens, he started beating her, stomping her frail body with his feet. Robert listed out the many fractures she suffered from this torture. Finally, her injuries were so great she died, drowning in her own blood. They found her broken, lifeless body the next day.
The poor woman was 53 years old, the same age as my mother when she died of natural causes. The alleged perpetrator was caught on video, walking with her the morning of the day when she was murdered. He stayed at The Daily Bread, a homeless shelter only a couple of blocks from where we give people clothes, coats, footwear on Saturdays in downtown Harrisburg. They often come for the free breakfast at the Catholic Church and then to our corner of the street to see what we have for them. It crossed my mind I might have given him the boots the murderer used to stomp this poor woman to death!
I was troubled by this thought and I spoke to our leaders, Wayne and Kim, about it. They said they know for a fact some of the things we provide to the homeless are misused, traded for drugs, used to purchase all ungodliness. But, Kim said, what they do with the gifts they are given with God’s blessing are between themselves and God. His servants serve Him and it is our service that is before Him who purchased us, not the sins of others. God has given Wayne and Kim such wisdom, for which I praise His name!
I imagine the alleged perpetrator must have talked to people at The Daily Bread, like Lamech boasting to his wives of killing the young man, because the people at the shelter came forward and told the police he was the one. The alleged perpetrator was arrested January 9th and given a hearing February 22nd of this year. He was incarcerated without bail, charged with one count of homicide and one count of rape. And that’s the last I heard of him. Perhaps he plead out or perhaps he is awaiting trial.
I was recently sent a summons for jury duty this November in Dauphin County, so I thought about this case. What would I decide if selected to sit on the trial of the man alleged to have killed Robert’s girlfriend? As the facts warranted, or so I would strive to accomplish, with much prayer.
But my sense of justice in a case like this, given its brutality, is somewhat informed by the medieval, I confess. This poor woman was tortured to death, God rest her soul!
Sheri and I visited Marksburg Castle on the Rhine River in 2016, where the torture chamber was on display. The procedure for exacting a confession back then required three steps by law. First, the accused was invited to confess. Next, If no confession was forthcoming, the implements of torture were presented to the accused for review, who was then asked again if he or she might now have something to confess? It was only after two refusals the torture devices would be used to exact the confession. I thought of what went through the hearts and minds of the innocent by the second round, as they reviewed the torture devices. Would they confess to crimes they didn’t commit to avoid torture?
Looking at the accused man’s face in the news reports, however, I did not see the face of the demon I expected. He looked incapable of such a vicious crime. What does a murderer look like, anyway?
I must myself, therefore, appear as a murderer before Christ Jesus, my Lord, liable to judgment, because I freely confess before God that I have been angry with my brothers and sisters in the past. Have you? God forgive us and help us permanently extinguish the fire of hell in our hearts, that we might never burn again with anger against one another, choking our very souls like the smoke of the Canadian wildfires choking our lungs.
John Stott, in his book “Confess Your Sins”, says there is a “common and dangerous tendency” among Christians to cover their sins; like Adam and Eve, we sew fig leaves for ourselves because we know, unlike the unbelievers, that God is watching us, that what we have done is wrong. But we should be painfully honest, as Christians, when we go before the Lord and eagerly confess our specific sins, not just with a vague sense of remorse asking His forgiveness. Nothing is hidden from Him, so we just deceive ourselves if we make light of our sins.
There was a man on the street painfully pushing all of his belongings on a device called a Rollerator, which resembles a wheeled walker. The wheels were too small to go over the cobblestones and it was battered by long use. I learned the man’s name is the same as mine. I also have trouble with my legs. Perhaps kindness begins by recognizing we are all one suffering humankind together.
Perhaps kindness is the only real judgment the servants of God are allowed to make on His behalf.
We were sharing the Word with people on the street and I saw a man who was really hearing it; I could almost see the Holy Spirit resting on him like the morning sun. That is why we are there, I was reminded. May the Holy Spirit bring the conviction of sin upon this man, upon everyone, may they be saved by the grace and mercy in Christ Jesus our Lord. May there be a revival among them.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
And that is the Word on the Street!
For more information, or to learn how to join us in reaching people for Jesus, please email Living Water’s Director of Outreach, Mike Bongo, at email@example.com and he will get you plugged in! You will be blessed as you become a blessing to others!