David Berkowitz is a very interesting person. Here is a man who cut down numerous young people in the prime of their lives in brutal fashion, who was finally brought down by the police. While in prison, Berkowitz accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, and has subsequently asked not to be paroled and has not been attending any of his hearings. Mr. Berkowitz has been involved in the ministry actively, and serves as a counselor now for troubled inmates. He has obviously made an incredible change in his life, turning against his former self, ridding himself of occultic influence, and instead has grasped the suffering LORD of the cross.
With a story like that, one is almost convinced that Mr. Berkowitz should be freed from prison and lauded as an example of the drastic changes that can come in one’s life due to the love of Christ. However, Mr. Berkowitz disagrees, and I actually applaud him for that decision. There are two reasons I agree with him. For one reason, from a purely governmental/ethical view, were we to free him from prison, it would render the justice system impotent. It would create a mockery of everything our justice system stands for. Even from a biblical standpoint, this would be wrong. The Noahic covenant established by God and Noah in Genesis 9 calls for the punishment of murderers by the spilling of their own blood. At least Berkowitz’s lifelong stay in prison offers a resemblance of this punishment. Otherwise, were he to be released, there would be no backbone in the U.S. justice system.
The second reason is this: although we can be saved from an eternal death by faith in Christ, there is still a price to be paid for our actions. By that, I mean this: “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8, NASB)” We must realize that, forgiveness from God may give us eternal life, and we may have renewed relationship via repentence, but there is always a price to be paid. The adulterer may be forgiven, they may be saved, but their right standing before God after their misdeed will not guarantee smoothness in their relationship with their spouse. The murderer may be awaiting reunion with their Master and Creator, but that does not exempt the criminal court system from passing judgment upon the perpetrator. We must be ever mindful that forgiveness before God and even before man does not preclude that we will pay a price for misdeeds.
All that to say this: humans many times do their fair share of creating human suffering. Sometimes we are guilty of creating our own suffering through our actions. We may have created a painful situation through our actions or our inaction, and are left holding the pieces. At this point, we would be well reminded that there is a price to pay for our actions.
Where to go from there? First, accept that our misdeeds can lead to a lot of pain and learn from that for the future. Second, realize that while we are hurting from the pain of our own causing, someone else is hurting as well, and that it’s time to pick up the pieces and ask for forgiveness. Third, realize that restoration of the relationship or penance for the crime will take time. Finally, use this opportunity to seek out God and truly live in His Grace. C.S. Lewis said that pain was God’s megaphone. Respond to that call from God to draw nearer after our sins and misdeeds, make it through the pain of sowing what we have reaped, and pray to God that eventually the process will lead to a closer relationship to Him.