The beautiful land of Nanjing, China, reveals a horrifying story. Seventy years ago, 300,000 Chinese were massacred. This “Raping of Nanjing” was carried out by Japanese Imperialist General Matsui Iwane. There is recent debate in the film industry (The Flowers of War) as to the level of slaughter that took place. These exchanges run the spectrum of “it never occurred” to “the slaughter was even worse” than is depicted by the historic Memorial Museum in Nanjing.
While the scale of the evil is debated—the evil of the event itself is obvious. This attack reveals a great war that rages inside humanity. This historical precedent reveals a spiritual truism: We are capable of being culpable. The ability to do evil is a certainty. Left to our own devices, our human nature wreaks horrific havoc. The Gospel of Mark reveals this proclivity:
“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23, NIV)
As I contemplate that of which we are capable, I also ponder the words of the second step of Alcoholic’s Anonymous: “We came to be aware that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
We need God’s intervention. And God personally invests Himself in rescuing us from ourselves! Jesus is God’s intervention restoring us to sanity. Because of God’s forgiveness, we can return to that which is “good, right, holy, noble and true.” (Philippians 4:8)
The third verse of the hymn “How Great Thou Art” says it well:
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die – I scarce can take it in:
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
God’s intervening grace is the only way healing can begin in Nanjing—and in the geography of the human heart. Once this grace is received, God invites us to be part of the intervention. With full grace and abundant hope, God’s Spirit invites to be hope in the darkest of places. St. Francis of Assisi invites us to pray and to action:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.