What Pastor Fred Winter’s Murder Taught Us on March 9, 2009
Only three weeks ago, my friend, Pastor Fred Winters of Maryville, Illinois was speaking in his pulpit, when a man walked into the church, down the aisle, brandished two weapons and began shooting, slashing, and stabbing members of First Baptist Church and its pastor.
That story hit home, because Fred Winters was my friend.
What happened that day was an act of evil.
A man, Terry Sedlacek, committed a premeditated act of murder against a pastor. This was someone the man had never met, at a church he had never attended— That same killer had to pass by dozens of other congregations on the way to Fred’s church. And what’s more, he didn’t have to kill a man. He could have done anything else (he could taken his angst and “jumped rope”… flown a kite, or gone bowling)— but instead, he walked into the house of God on a Sunday morning and killed a pastor, the father of two, in cold blood, in full view of his wife and church family, in a sanctuary consecrated for the worship of God. And then tried to take his own life (the attempted suicide wounds were still visible on his throat, in his police arrest photo).
What happened to Fred Winters that day was EVIL. Wickedness. Sin.
So evil exists. Sin and wickedness are realities that must be acknowledged. And though I’ve never committed murder, each and every day, I commit other sins. So I have to wrestle with the issue of sin “out there” and “in here”—my own heart… just like you.
Our Vulnerability To Sin
WHY are we Vulnerable to Sin? WHY we are vulnerable to sin is answered by three primary theological concepts: Original Sin; The Fall; and Depravity.
1. Original Sin
Fundamentally, we are vulnerable to practicing evil and wickedness because of what theologians call “Original Sin.” Original Sin is one of the fundamental teachings of the Bible—and it is first mentioned just after Creation, in the third chapter of the Bible, Genesis 3:1-6. And this theme continues to develop until the final chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22:1-3a.
So the Reality of Evil is one of the primary theological themes that spans nearly every page of the Bible. That explains why wickedness has constantly been one of the most powerful forces throughout human history. It plagues us, it wrecks our lives and the lives of others.
And “what is” Original Sin? Simply stated, Original Sin was the first act of human disobedience in the Garden of Eden. It was the violation of innocence and the corruption of righteousness. And after Eve was deceived, Adam then took the next fatal step by actively entering into rebellion against God’s authority.
THAT was Original Sin— the initial rebellion against God.
2. The Fall
And when Original Sin occurred, that immediately resulted in what theologians call “The Fall.” See Genesis 3:7-10. So Original Sin (the initial act of deliberate disobedience by Adam, brought on by the satanic deception of Eve) resulted in The Fall.
The Fall of Humanity was and is the condition of being estranged from God—and alienated from eternal life. It resulted in our spiritual divorce from God— a condition where we are disconnected from God; where we know that something between He and us has gone wrong.
Though Adam was originally blameless and morally innocent— his rebellion against God’s authority made him “morally culpable,” or responsible, for his actions: This meant that he was no longer innocent, but guilty.
Romans 5:12 says that “sin entered the world through one man (Adam’s Original Sin), and death (separation from God in this life and the next) through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” SO WHEN ADAM sinned, he acted on behalf of the entire human race—just as a representative in the state or nation’s capital represents and votes for you. And whatever vote they cast, you are symbolically casting it with them. And as the Federal Head of the Human Race, Adam rebelled and, in doing so, passed on that sin nature to every one of us.
And when Adam “fell,” we all fell with him.
And though some people have a hard time interpreting this phenomena… it is this biblical reality of Fallenness that explains our search for meaning and our profound existential need as humans. It also explains that sense of spiritual desperation that all people feel. It is “why” we feel far from God. It is “why” people feel anxious, lonely, afraid, insecure, and lost.
So Original Sin led to the Fall of Humanity, and the Fall resulted in AND manifests itself by Depravity.
What is Depravity? Depravity is the degree of corruption in our human nature. It means that there is EMBEDDED WITHIN US a penchant to sin; that there is a natural propensity, a proclivity, or a predisposition to do things that which is unseemly. It means that none of us need “coached” to do what is wrong, but that, OFTEN, we quite naturally gravitate toward it. As a result, each of us is, to a greater or lesser degree, corrupt.
The Apostle Paul recognized his own depravity in Romans 7:14-25:
14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who
will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So BECAUSE we have Original Sin and are Fallen, we are Depraved.
And this “depravity” results in bad character, moral weakness, and an overall lack of resolve that includes IN US a natural tendency to be inexplicably drawn to evil. And even though we are not as BAD as we COULD BE, none of us are as GOOD as we SHOULD BE.
That’s Depravity: It means we are totally incapable of saving ourselves FROM OURSELVES, and it places us in need of a Savior— That’s why we need Christ, who alone has the power to help us overcome the power and penalty of sin.