When we're young, our monsters hide at the back of our closets and under our beds. As we mature, our monsters become concrete and real. An abusive spouse or parent. A sadistic drug dealer. An unsympathetic priest. A callous brother or sister. An enemy combatant. As we grow up, our monsters put on other peoples' faces.
Sometimes, the monstrous face that stares back at us is our own. Our monsters don't destroy us. Instead, we become them.
As soon as we're born, we begin to lose pieces of our humanity. Survival demands we adapt ourselves to the world, which is violent and unforgiving. Our births into this world are a violent eruption, a kind of violence that never relents as long as we draw breath. We want to live, no matter the stakes or personal cost. We will sacrifice anyone and anything to live.
Most people camouflage their monstrous urges.
We will even adopt the tactics of the monsters we fight so that eventually we become just as monstrous as the rest of the world.
Most people, however, camouflage their monstrous urges. They avoid direct confrontations, preferring a passive-aggressive approach, depicting themselves as victims. They do violence to others through manipulation and bloodless bullying. But, other people are less subtle. Their rage and resentments explode in a blitz of emotions and words. They throw temper tantrums. They break things. They storm out of the house and lay a strip of rubber in the driveway as they speed away. Still others get in our face and threaten to do us harm if we don't bend to their will. And, finally, there are those few who, in every society, are truly monstrous. The murderers. The rapists. The death worshippers.
Typically, we don't want to be reminded that the world is full of monsters unless we need to be protected from them. Then we invite men and women to behave monstrously because it means we'll be safe from the monsters we can't control. We ask that they sacrifice their humanity so we can live.
But, there's always more monsters because the world is violent and unforgiving. The world gives birth to monsters and if we want to live, we must behave monstrously to survive. We must fight, struggle, and sacrifice our humanity one piece at a time.
But is fighting the monsters that horrify us--or worse, becoming the monster--really living? Is survival the purpose and goal of life? Is that what God created us for, and why Jesus died on the cross?
Jesus moves toward the things we run away from. He joins us in his birth, life, and death. He embraces all humanity with outstretched arms on the cross. He sacrifices himself for the sin of the world, for all of its monsters and monstrosities. All that we fight against, and all that we become, is executed at Golgotha. When John the Baptizer said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," he wasn't talking about the worst aspects of our character. He pointed at the One who, for our sake, God made to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Everything that defines our fragmented humanity is nailed to the cross.
Jesus accepted all that we are: all our rage and violence, our abuse of each other and our sadism, our lack of sympathy and callousness, and all that we do to treat God as an enemy. Everything that defines our fragmented humanity is nailed to the cross. The monsters we fight against and the monsters we become are drowned in the blood of the Lamb. Jesus' death, and the power of his resurrection, restore our humanity.
While we may prefer to become the monster whenever we're afraid for our lives, there's always a better way. The Good News of Jesus and his gifts of forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation can and will cage the monsters. The Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us faith to believe he will never leave or forsake us. He will not allow us to be devoured by the world. Hell has no hold on us because in the power of Jesus' resurrection, we are not monsters. We are fully human, creatures of God, declared righteous for the sake of him who died and rose for us.
No more monsters are hiding at the back of our closets or under our beds. There's only Jesus.