On November 20, 2014, New York police officer Peter Liang was conducting a patrol inside the Louis H. Pink Houses in Brooklyn. As he entered a stairwell, his gun accidentally fired. The stray bullet killed one Akai Gurley, who was with his girlfriend at the time. Panicking, Liang fled the scene without trying to resuscitate the victim or calling an ambulance. On February 11, 2016, the courts convicted Officer Liang of second-degree manslaughter, and he has since been fired from the police department and sentenced to fifteen years in prison (The New York Times). Thus, a sorrowful justice had been served.
When tragedies like these arise, perhaps we cannot blame those who doubt the carpenter Jesus’ words, who claims to have absolved humanity from all the crimes that we (supposedly) committed against God and gave us all equal opportunity to live forever in the afterlife—in a word, “saving” us. And yet, the world certainly does not feel saved. No one can deny the fact that this planet of ours is insane, with all its self-centeredness, self-righteousness, and self-mutilation. We act out these “self-isms” in wars, ethnic cleanings, murders, oppression, human trafficking, drug dealing, thefts, and plenty of other creative ways. Even people with the best of intentions can hurt other people; just ask Peter Liang. In light of these facts, why do Christians trust Jesus at his word when he says “I have justified you and renewed you”?
Instead of answering with philosophy or Biblical quotes, I present a brief thought experiment: maybe we are all Peter Liangs, criminals deserving of our punishment. “But God loved the world.” Thus, in order to appease the courts of God, Jesus received our court ruling in our stead, granting us an opportunity for a new, sane life. That is why Jesus, who said he was God, stated: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He implicated that he is why we can have assurance of a better life, one that is distinctly different than the one we have now. Only God, the one who made humanity, has power to grant us that alternative. In other words, we might be so depraved that only that Jesus’ punishment was the only way to ebb the flow of our insanity, since everyone except Jesus deserves to be thrown into asylum anyway. Therefore, it is only fitting of us to grasp hold of that opportunity and work to repay his selflessness. In fact, God aids us in our endeavor, by exchanging our selfish desires with his sane mind. By this beautifully uneven trade, we can willingly trade our whole lives as gratitude to him.
Then again, this is just a thought. Our crimes may never be absolved, or they may not exist at all. Perhaps God does not exist or humanity can indeed save itself. Justice, life, and death could mean nothing at all. Regardless, our insanity continues, and more tragedies happen day after day. Where is our hope then?