Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
We assume that we know what we are doing. We are an enlightened society. Science is our guide. Philosophy our liturgy. Comfort our god. We have proven there is no god and now, freed from the constraints of the tyranny of religion, we can forego the masses' opiate and forge our own path, create Utopia. We are the captains of our souls.
To anyone who thinks the Bible is a book of children's stories, please avoid Judges. The last 3 chapters contain a story so graphic the writers of Game of Thrones could whip it into a screenplay with but little editing. The book ends with gang rape, a dismembered corpse mailed to 12 tribes, an ensuing civil war, the death of nearly 70,000 men, the wholesale slaughter of an entire city, and 600 girls taken captive and forced into marriages. Ancient historical text or modern headlines?
While there is much to be gleaned from these chapters, my initial gut reaction is merely one of sadness at the state of mankind when we make our own rules. The Cycle of Judges has the repeated phrase, "everyone did what was right in his own eyes."
And this is, I believe, the core value in our world. It is the basis of materialism, sexism, racism, and all the other 'ism's which pervade our world as fungus rots a fallen log. We see it, we want it. We feel it, we do it. Frank Sinatra did it his way. We are the champions. When people look to themselves to find the solution the inevitable result is always death and brokenness and sadness and horror. Religion even looks to man as the solution: Earn your way. Pay your penance. Become nothing. All religions but one.
Jesus changed everything. He came into this world so desperately broken, not to condemn it, but that it might be saved through Him. Jesus didn't need to condemn us: we do that perfectly well on our own. He came to save us. The gospel comes to ruined people. Ruined by sin. Condemned, helpless, dead. The gospel is not a flannel board fairy tale. It is God seeing people ruined by doing what is right in their own eyes and sending Himself to show them what is truly right.
The 2nd greatest lie in all of history is that we have within ourselves the capacity to know what is right. It's what Satan told Eve. It is built upon the subtle, but Greatest Lie: God does not love you. Because to believe the 2nd, we must concede the first. The reality is that God does love you. Yes, even you. Even me. He loves us so very much that He did what we could never do on our own: Be selfless. Love. Forgive. Grace.
Grace is looking at the man in Judges 19 who threw his wife to rapists to save his own skin. A man who sacrificed a woman on the alter of his own nefarious pride by allowing men to kill her with their depravity. A man who took the weaker and used her to protect his own comfort. It is looking at that evil man and loving him enough to take the enormity of his sin and bear it for him so that he could be forgiven. Jesus took the people who hurt children and societies who abuse women and He loved them by dying for their "doing what was right in their own eyes." It is impossibly wonderful. Achingly true.
I see in my own heart the capacity for such evil. Nauseated by Judges, I look within and see the man I could have been had not Jesus redeemed my broken soul by His love. And I look to Him to show me what is right. Not myself. Because when I do as I see fit instead of what the Lord says is good, I am the man in Judges. Ah, but He is my Good Shepherd who freed me by his love. He transforms my very heart, my very mind, into a man who looks like Him. Who loves like Him. Who can now do what is right in God's eyes, and not his own.
Grace, grace, God's grace.
Grace that is greater than all our sin.