In September 2017 a Massachusetts woman, Michelle Carter, was sentenced to 15 months in jail after being convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of her boyfriend, Conrad Roy. Michelle had sent Conrad a series of text messages urging him to take his own life.
Initially Michelle had encouraged Conrad to get help for his personal problems. But over time Michelle began to get frustrated and impatient with him. It’s been speculated that she wanted to win the sympathy and attention that comes with being the grieving girlfriend.
Here are some of the texts Michelle sent to Conrad:
“Don’t be scared. You already made this decision and if you don’t do it tonight, you’re gonna be thinking about it the rest of your life and be miserable.”
“You keep pushing it off, that’s all you keep doing. You say you’ll do it, but you never do.”
At one point Michelle sent Conrad a list of ways he could kill himself, ending with: “Idk there’s a lot of ways.” Finally, Conrad took his own life.
Here are two questions about this tragic story to consider:
First, how would you feel about Michelle Carter if you were Conrad Roy’s parents? You raise your son. Like many kids, he hits some troubled spots in high school. He withdraws socially. What you can’t begin to imagine when he’s upstairs texting in his room is that his girlfriend is encouraging him to take his own life. How would you feel about Michelle Carter if you were Conrad Roy’s parents?
Now, a second question. How would you feel about Michelle Carter if you were Michelle Carter’s parents? You are, of course, beyond horrified to learn that your daughter encouraged a another family’s son to commit suicide. You can’t even bear the thought of facing his family.
But what are your feelings toward your own daughter Michelle—your 17-year-old girl that you’ve raised from diapers to onesies to pajamas to princess dresses to prom dresses. Do you still love her with all your heart? Would you do absolutely anything to make all this pain go away for everyone, including Michelle? How much do you still love your daughter?
We don’t know exactly what it means that we were made in God’s image. But it must include this: We cannot stop loving our children. We should be incapable of it, because God does not stop loving His children.
After the first humans defected, they walked hand in hand out of their garden paradise. Genesis 3:23 says that the couple returned to the ground from which Adam was made. (Jewish tradition teaches that that this ground is Mount Moriah—the temple mount.)
In Genesis 4 Adam and Eve experienced for the first time a version of what God Himself also experiences: parenthood. The Bible tells us that Adam lived for over 900 years. Can you imagine our first parents spending nearly a millennium watching in horror as their children and grandchildren fell deeper and deeper into sin? Yet through it all, I can only imagine that they felt the same thing God did: unshakable love for their children.
When Cain began thinking about killing his own brother, Abel, God Himself spoke these words to Cain:
“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door” (Gen. 2:7).
This verse has been interpreted a couple of ways. At first glance, it sounds like God is warning Cain that sin is crouching at his door, like a ferocious animal. But some scholars have suggested a different animal lying at Cain’s door: a sacrificial lamb. Indeed, the Hebrew word haata’t, usually translated “sin” in this verse, can mean “sin offering” (see Lev. 4:25), referring to an atoning sacrifice for the sinner. And the Hebrew word rabats, translated “lies” or “crouches,” can be associated with a pasturing herd or flock (see Gen 29:2).
What does this mean? God might actually have been telling Cain: “Do what is right, Cain. But if you don’t do what is right, it’s not over for you. A sin offering is lying at your door. Let yourself be covered by the blood of the Lamb.”
Unfailing grace from the very beginning . . . from a Heavenly Father who refuses to stop loving His children.
Andy Nash is an author, professor, and pastor who leads summer study tours to Israel.
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Second Kings 6 tells the story of King Aram’s attempts to silence the prophet Elisha. The king was understandably peeved by Elisha’s ability to predict where and when Aram’s army would attack Israel’s forces, thus eliminating Aram’s element of surprise and giving Israel a decided strategic advantage.
One night the king of Aram sent his army to surround the city of Dothan, where Elisha lived. The next morning, when Elisha and his servant walked out of their house, they saw the assembled forces of Aram. The servant panicked because he could see nothing else.
Elisha stayed calm and asked the Lord to open his servant’s eyes. The servant was equally stunned and reassured by what he saw. An army of angels, far more vast and imposing than Aram’s forces, stood ready for battle. Though he hadn’t realized it before, the servant had nothing to fear.
Elisha’s servant was unable to recognize God’s protection, even though it surrounded him. In a similar vein, there are people in your orbit who are unable to recognize God’s love, even though it surrounds them.
The first step is to understand what blinds them. Many hurting people blame God for the pain and disappointment in their lives. They hear Christians talk about God’s power and wonder why He let one of their loved ones die. Worse yet, they see and hear what God has done in other people’s lives and wonder why He hasn’t done the same for them.
Their circumstances blind them to God’s love. They can’t see the handiwork described in Romans 8:28, how “all things work together for good to those who love God.” They need someone to help them see.
But not just anyone.
Because, in many cases, what blinds people to God’s love are the actions and attitudes of those who claim to follow the Lord. Some people might have felt unwelcome at church. Others may have experienced bullying at the hands of Christian peers. Still others may have learned all too well of the feet of clay of respected spiritual leaders.
Few things blur a person’s spiritual outlook like hypocrisy. Once bitten, twice shy, as the saying goes. Once people have seen hypocrisy in action, they become suspicious of—and sometimes antagonistic toward—anyone who speaks to them about God’s love.
If people sense that…
they will respond … eventually.
Building that kind of trust requires time, consistency and transparency. God’s love shines through the one who makes time for her neighbor, It shines through the one who stands next to a grieving husband or father, not just for the duration of the funeral, but for months and years afterward.
People who are unfamiliar with God’s love may not recognize it at first. But they will recognize someone who genuinely cares for them and wants to help. That’s the work of Christ’s body in the world.