Thinking Out Loud

October 23, 2010

Acknowledging Your Guilt

This week in Canada, the top news story all week has been the trial of Russell Williams, a former colonel in the Canadian armed forces, who was in charge of the Trenton base, one of the largest, and was convicted of the murder of two young women and over eighty “fetish” break and enter crimes.    The account of his actions has been unlike anything seen on television or reported in newspapers here, and we’re told that the media spared us many of the pictures and narrative details.

In the middle of the week, I was a few minutes late in turning on the evening National news and figured that the short report I was seeing would end, only to realize that the CBC network had suspended regular news in order to bring coverage of the release of the video of Williams’ confession.   (Here in Canada, the network news comes after prime time, so this would be like your 6:30 PM newscasts in the U.S.)

The entire video runs about 9.5 hours; and the report fast-forwarded through it until about the 4.5 hour mark where Williams realizes that his guilt has been established.   There is a very long interrogation period leading up to that point, and knowing how the story ends, you see the strain on Williams as he realizes there is no escape at this point; his guilt is a foregone conclusion.   The interrogator is very skillful in bringing Williams from the point of thinking he is just being brought in for background information to the point of realization that his criminal actions are, in the minds of the police, an established fact.

It’s video unlike anything else we’ve ever seen before.

If you’ve ever been involved in leading a person into that process we might call ‘crossing the line of faith,’ you know that there are various steps a person needs to go through in order to have the fullest understanding of both our part and Christ’s part in the salvation of men and women.  One of the more simplistic devices — and I’ve dealt with this issue just a few days ago — is called “The ABCs of Salvation.”   Acknowledge, Believe, Confess.

Step one is acknowledging your sin and guilt as seen through the eye of a holy God.   Those of us who have already crossed the line of faith often don’t think twice about this, but for those outside the fold, this is actually a fairly big step, because many see themselves as pretty good people.

I wondered this week how people in the broader marketplace would fare if they were brought into a room with a “spiritual interrogator” not fully thinking that their guilt had been established, and how they would move through the process from innocence (think Adam and Eve just after they ate the fruit and nothing bad happened) to concern (think Adam and Eve covering themselves, even though nobody had ever suggested the idea of clothing) to being face to face with God (think Adam and Eve not responding at all once they are found out).

This is not an easy process.    It was agonizing to watch the once giant of the Canadian military realizing the game was up.

Genesis 3:9 (NIV) But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

God wasn’t playing hide-and-seek and asking Adam for his physical location; he was asking him where he was in relationship to Himself.

It’s possible that the difficulty we experience in ‘making progress’ in terms of ‘reaching’ our neighbors and friends and coworkers with an understanding of the Christian message of redemption is that they can’t bring themselves to the place where they admit their guilt.   But as in the case of the televised confession this week, the evidence has been weighed and the guilt has already been established.

All have sinned and missed the mark of God’s glorious standard.

Romans 3: 21-24 (The Message) But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:22-23 (The Message) Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God’s gift is real life, eternal life, delivered by Jesus, our Master.

Williams will not get a pardon for his crimes. But today, you can receive forgiveness and grace from a God of mercy.

February 9, 2010

Once Again, A Loss of Trust

A military commander from Canadian Forces Base Trenton in eastern Ontario has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of two women.

Col. Russell Williams, 46, of Tweed, the top commander at 8 wing CFB Trenton, was arrested Sunday in Ottawa, Ontario Provincial Police Det.-Insp. Chris Nicholas said at a news conference Monday.

Williams has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jessica Lloyd, 27, whose body was found Monday off Cary Road in the municipality of Tweed.

Lloyd had been missing since Jan. 28 from her home outside Tweed, about 30 kilometres north of Belleville.

Ontario’s chief coroner is to conduct an autopsy on Lloyd’s body, which arrived in Toronto late Monday afternoon.

Williams was also charged in the death of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, 38, of Brighton, Ont., who was killed in her home Nov. 25. Comeau served with the 437 Squadron at CFB Trenton.

…So begins a story on CBC News that has left Canadians somewhat shattered early this week.   Within hours over 300 people had posted comments to the site before the CBC decided to shut down the comment section of the story.

Williams had flown Canadian army aircraft for the Prime Minister and for visiting royalty.   He enjoyed a position of trust such as few others in this country.

Earlier in the day Monday, we had driven along Canada’s busiest highway, where a large sign invited the public’s help in finding Ms. Lloyd, pictured at right, who was last seen on January 28th.   An extensive search involved many people in Belleville, a city approximately an hour and a half east of Toronto.     Ms. Comeau, a Canadian army corporal,  had been found murdered on November 25th.

As we discussed the story over dinner, while we reminded ourselves that until brought to trial, Col. Williams is only alleged to have committed the crimes in question, it is no small task to place some in such high profile under arrest.  The police would need a fairly high degree of certainty, while Col. Williams would possibly place himself as beyond suspicion.

All this of course at a time when Canada is enduring painful losses in Afghanistan.

One of the deleted comments at CBC News wondered how anyone could be in charge of one of Canada’s largest military bases with what will certainly emerge as a disturbing mental health profile.   (Williams is also charged with two counts of sexual assault and forcible confinement.)

I feel sad.   Sad not only for the families of the two women and for Williams’ family, but sad for every young person who sees our military — especially right now — as heroes.  Some of that confidence was shattered today.

The shadow it casts on the Canadian military and to Canada itself is leaving us reeling.

How do we teach our children to “respect those in authority,” when those in authority often disappoint?   As adults, who do we trust?   Is there anyone on earth who we can truly trust, or is it inevitable that people are going to let us down?

Psalm 20:7 (NIV) Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

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