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Thursday, March 05, 2009

'If anyone has earned a place in heaven'


Late last night as I was trawling BBC News I came across the tragic story of the murder of 18 year old Rob Knox. Mr Knox had played a role in a Harry Potter film and was stabbed to death by Karl Bishop, aged 22.

There's enough there already to make you weep. That an 18 year old man could be killed by a 22 year old man is yet another sign that all is not well inside UK plc. Bishop is described as someone who "had been "very angry" as a child and attended anger management courses. He was expelled from school and began getting into trouble with the police for criminal damage from the age of about 14."

Probably a decade had passed in this young man's life and no could help him with the anger and rage inside and now the next decade or two will be spent in prison. Dear God, forgive us if we have failed him.

Then of course there is the tragedy of a family bereft of a son just entering adulthood. It is keenly felt that parents should depart this life before their children not after. But there were two things that Mr Knox's parents said which stood out. Firstly his mother is quoted as saying,
"As a mother and parent, I can never forgive the person responsible for taking my son Robert's life, or the devastation that has been caused by these actions. His life was stolen, taken without permission. He was taken in the most cruel way possible."
'I can never forgive.' It puts the bravery of the Oake family in stark contrast. My heart is for this woman because she risks living with bitterness, resentment, anger on top of unbearable sadness which could become a prison. Forgiveness is the only way out of that trap. So hard.

Mr Knox's father on the other hand made this comment,
"He looked asleep. So I told myself that he was only sleeping and that the angels will take him to heaven. If anyone earned a place in heaven, it was Rob."
Now, I know nothing about the faith of Rob Knox, for all I know he may well have trusted his heart and soul to Jesus Christ and so may very well now be in heaven. Of course no parent wants to think otherwise and we all ever hope is that our loved ones will be OK. Perhaps indeed God will have mercy. All I know is, that no one has ever earned a place in heaven. It isn't a place you can earn your way in, it's a privilege and gift bestowed by God. It's always a gift of mercy and grace.

So, we ask ourselves where again is the church that young men die at the hands of other young men, that mothers are left to stew in unforgiveness and that a nation thinks you can earn your way into heaven? We are indeed far from the Gospel of grace. God have mercy on us.

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