While it seems most people are resigned to express hatred toward Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech gunman who shot and killed 32 people before taking his own life, there are some who aren't thinking twice about forgiving the 23-year-old student for his heinous crimes.First off, in one sense, what right do these people have to forgive Cho? It's not as if they were the ones wronged (murdered) by Cho. Nor are they (as far as I know) in any way related to those who were murdered by Cho. They aren't friends or relatives. Or even acquaintances. So, again, who are they to forgive Cho?
Murder, of course, is an irrevocable sin. Once it has been committed, it can never be taken back. So another question is, can Cho ever be forgiven by those whom he murdered since they are no longer alive to offer him forgiveness?
And to complicate matters, Cho took his own life. Thus, there can be no justice because Cho escaped justice.
Not that there could in fact be full and total justice anyway. After all, if one human being murders another human being, then would not justice, strictly speaking, demand that the murderer's life is now forfeit? But what of the murderer who murders 32 people? Even if Cho had been captured, tried, and convicted, and suppose executed for his murderous rampage across the Virginia Tech campus, would justice ever truly be served, since Cho only has one life to forfeit, not 32?
How can humans ever hope to mete out justice in the case of a serial or mass murder committed by a single person? The highest punishment we have -- the execution of the murderer -- would not wholly satisfy justice. If there is to be complete justice, then there must be a punishment greater than death. But there isn't. At least not in this life. Thus, this might work as an indirect pointer to the reality of a fate worse than death. And by it, perhaps, to the existence of other things.
Otherwise, life is and forever will be unfair. But if we go down this trail, at best, it's all meaningless. Vanity of vanities. At worst, well... maybe we can see how deep the rabbit hole really is another time. For now, I'll leave off making any remarks.
In addition to his multiple murders, however, Cho committed arguably the most heinous sin of all: he committed idolatry.
What is idolatry? As I understand it, it is both reducing God into something which he is not as well as placing something -- anything, including oneself -- in the place of the true God. It is not recognizing let alone accepting God for who he is, as he has revealed himself in the Scriptures. It is making him out to be something which he is not. Or making him into something which one thinks he is or should be, to conform God to one's own notions of who or what God is. It is putting God in a box. More specifically, it is the (post-modern) claim that religion and spirituality and God are whatever one decides to make of them. It is the belief that the reference point for God and religion is oneself. As I've heard Don Carson characterize it in the past, idolatry is the de-"God"-ing of God.
Witness some of Cho's statements:
I did it for them. I did it to make you stop what you did to me. The future generations of the weak and defenseless.Cho compares himself to Moses and likewise to Christ. He sees himself as a martyr for the weak and defenseless. Also, Cho sees himself as the one who has been wronged by others. Perhaps wronged by his community and society. There is a self-centeredness to all he has said and to all he has done. Cho considers himself the greatest victim as well as the greatest leader, a martyr for the weak and defenseless. Psychiatrists might perhaps diagnose him as a megalomaniac, and pronounce that he has a God-complex. Of course, Cho's "megalomania" is no different than the "megalomania" of many other serial killers and mass murders -- from Hitler (cf. The Psychopathic God by Robert Waite) to Harris and Klebold. The world revolves around them. But, biblically speaking, let's cut to the chase and call it what it is: Cho was an idolater. He placed himself in the place of God.
Like Moses, I split the sea and lead my people, the weak, the defenseless, the innocent children of all ages...
You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.
Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon on a cross? And left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in our lives as you can just because you can?
Murder leaves behind tangible, physical evidence. There is a body. Serial and mass murder leaves behind tangible, physical evidence. There is a body count. But for the most part, modern idolatry in the West does not leave behind tangible, physical evidence. There are no wood or stone idols or carved images to bow down before. Perhaps that's one reason why idolatry doesn't seem as abhorrent to us as does something like murder. But from God's perspective, idolatry is just as bad if not worse than murder. Murder may take away human life, a human being created in the image of God. But idolatry attempts to take away from God himself, to re-fashion the Creator into an image within his creation, perhaps even after one's own likeness. It exchanges the glory of God for images resembling mortal man and/or things within creation.
Now, in Psalm 51:4, King David cries out to God, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." What on earth could David mean that he has only sinned against God? Hadn't he sinned against Bathsheba by committing adultery with her? Not to mention Bathsheba's husband, whom he had murdered? And in fact, this says nothing of the countless others whom David likely caused or at least influenced to sin when he involved them in his cover-up! Nevertheless David has the temerity to pray to God, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." What gives?
But David understood something we perhaps don't. David understood that, in the deepest sense, whenever we commit an act of sin, we are not merely sinning against others or ourselves, we are likewise sinning against God himself. Who God is is wound up with what God has revealed to us in his law. God is good. And as the source of good, when we sin against that which is good, we sin against God himself. As Carson (to whom I owe nearly all of my thoughts on this) states, in every act of sin, God is the most offended party. David understood this, and hence he cried out, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." In the deepest sense, David's sin was directly against God himself.
Getting back to the original question, who are these random strangers, then, to forgive Cho, as if they were in the place of God himself?
As I mentioned above, in one sense, only those wronged can forgive Cho for his evil, murderous acts. Yet those wronged are dead. And so is Cho.
But, as we see here, in quite another sense, God -- who created us and whose we are, at least as creatures (if not redeemed in Christ) -- is the most deeply offended party of all in any of our transgressions. Any and every sin we commit is a slap in the face against him, if not worse.
And since it's patently transparent Cho never repented of his sins (murder, idolatry, etc.), but rather died in them, the following may come across as a hard saying, but it is a biblically unavoidable one: there is no forgiveness for Cho. The wrath of God abides on him forever.
This may be the last word for Cho, but this isn't the last word for us. If you have never turned away from your sins -- whether they be as large as Cho's or as small as to be indiscernible even to those closest to you -- and pleaded with God to have mercy on you, do you think there will somehow be forgiveness for you when you stand before God? Do you think you can escape the just wrath of God, who is the most offended party in all your sins?
Reader, consider these things.