[forthright] The Tragedy Among Us

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthright@...>
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2006 16:03:30 -0600
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross


COLUMN: Final Phase

The Tragedy Among Us
by J. Randal Matheny

Many of us have felt distraught as details emerged
of Matthew Winkler's death in Selmer, Tennessee,
and his wife's confession. Members of the Winkler
family are known to many, and their ministries
have blessed, and will continue to bless,
multitudes.

At the risk of offending friends and family
members who are still in a state of shock, and for
whom this article may be premature, I would like
to think in terms of what positive lessons may be
drawn from this moment.

First, we belong to a family united by the love of
God. Jesus showed us, by the compassionate
treatment given to a sinner in the church (Matthew
18:15-17), how the Lord loves each one. Ours are
not throw-away friendships, not a slip-in, slip-
out communion. We are bound by the Spirit as
children of God. The pain of one is everyone's
pain.

Second, the truth always withstands scrutiny. We
all acknowledge that only Jesus was perfect; that
we are saved by the mercies of God; that sin makes
inroads in the church; that the flesh is weak, but
God's grace is sufficient for all. Brazilians
speak of the naked, cruel truth, as if it must
constantly be dressed, packaged, and toned down,
but Christians need not fear the worst.

Some political pundits and religious figures may
attempt to wring mileage from this tragedy for
their positions. Such jockeying should not
surprise us. But let us not fear the truth, for
mankind's worst merely highlights the divine best.
So it is that the truth makes us free (John 8:32).

Third, sin insinuates itself into the life of many
a saint. For every Peter there is also a Judas. Or
perhaps we should say, for every Judas there is
also a Peter.

Some rebound, others never turn back. Satan ever
seeks opportunity to sidetrack us, weigh us down
with resentments and bitterness, knock us out by
giving in to evil desires. So each one must look
to one's own heart, unmask the evil that lurks
there, and disarm the potential for spiritual
disaster. When we feel strongest we are at our
most vulnerable (1 Corinthians 11:12). Taking up
the whole armor of God, we may be sure of "having
done all, to stand firm" (Ephesians 6:13 ESV).

Our hearts go out to the families involved and to
the Fourth Street church in Selmer. We pray for
the three small daughters of the Winklers. We pray
for those who are weakened by this tragedy.

And we resolve to guard our own hearts and love
our brothers and sisters in such a way that sin
may be squelched in our midst before it bears its
bitter fruit.

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