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Think of God by Larry Sheehy
How should we look at hate crimes
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    The murder of Matthew Shepherd, beaten to death, apparently, because of his openly-professed homosexuality —  virtually no one has offered a defense of this terrible crime.  No doubt some do condone such, but not with God’s approval.  Murder, and the hatred that leads to it, are condemned soundly, in no uncertain terms, in both Old and New Testaments.
    What is giving a lot of people so much trouble in this case is the fact that his sexual orientation seems to have been the motivation for the hatred and violence.  Murder happens every day, many times a day.  Not all murder is the result of outspoken hatred.  It is often the product of a lunatic mind.  Our society has accepted the idea that insanity may be justification for finding a person “not guilty” of murder, even though no one denies the fact that the deed took place.  Some have even claimed that love may lead to the taking of human life, in situations which criminal law, to my knowledge, doesn’t tolerate, e.g., in euthanasia.
    As with murder, God’s will is clear regarding the Christian’s attitude toward the practice of homosexuality.  In spite of the fact that God himself is said to “hate all who do wrong” (Psalm 5:5), the same God “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” for the salvation of sinners.  And, despite the laughter and sneers of some at such an idea, a loving, all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful God is capable of hating sin while adoring those who commit sins such as homosexuality and murder.
    The Savannah Morning News for October 20, 1998, carried an article by Martin Marty, “professor of the history of religion at the University of Chicago,” suggesting that this attitude of God is little more than self-righteous Christian rhetoric in the face of such crimes as Matthew Shepherd’s assassination.  There can be no doubt that the highest of virtues can be turned into the lowest of vices by those whose hearts are not centered on Jesus.  Following the will of God will never justify the mistreatment, to any degree, of others, for any imaginable reason.  God’s righteousness alone is qualified to bear vengeance on wickedness.  And only God has the right to carry out His eternal retribution.  
    An e-mail letter from Christian lady, prompted by a national television news reporter’s negative comments indicting the so called “Christian Right” for Shepherd’s death, found its way to my computer a few days after this tragedy.  She expressed great concern that proposed “hate crime” legislation, if passed into law, posed a serious threat to the free-speech practices of Christian apologists.  While we don’t need to ignore or deny such threats, Christians need to remember the warnings of Scripture regarding the threat of a world unfriendly to Christian principles, and the determination of the devil to hinder our witness for God.  This recollection should cause us to be all the more determined to live lives that reflect the holiness of God, and the love of Christ for the vilest of sinners.  In the end, the gospel of Christ is the only remedy for the corruption of men, and the willfulness of those who uphold it.
    Larry Sheehy is an elder and pulpit minister at Statesboro Church of Christ. He can be reached at (912) 764-5269.
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