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.