I can’t help but wonder if this is not case with Douglas McAuthur McCain. Even though this 33 year old American was born in the USA, and had been an aspiring rapper, he was suspected of fighting alongside of Islamic State militants when he died on Monday.
When some people undertake a search for meaning, they mistakenly embrace a rigid set of rules to guide them. History is full of examples of people who have made this mistake. The Pharisees corrupted the Mosaic Law and were chastised by Jesus, but there are examples from more recent history in the persons of Hitler, Mussolini, and in the Middle East movements of the past decade.
Douglas McAuthur McCain may have made the same error. The rigid rules he followed called for an extremist lifestyle and the shedding of blood. Instead of giving his life meaning, it just created a greater thirst for blood.
The rigid rules were McCain’s attempt at remaking the face God had given him, and they were a weak substitute for a sustaining relationship that is more than smoke and mirrors—it is the knowledge that we are created in the image of God.
The words of Alan Redpath are a good explanation of this relationship: “The man who gazes upon and contemplates day by day the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, and who has caught the glow of the reality that the Lord is not a theory but an indwelling power and force in his life, is as a mirror reflecting the glory of the Lord.”
With my increase in age, I have noticed a decrease in vision. This is why I must depend on trifocals to bring things into focus. As I write this, my frames are bent a little and the left lens is higher than the right lens; and, my vision is blurred because the depth perception is skewed.
A rigid set of rules without the sustaining relationship of grace mercy will also skew reality. They may reform you, but they will never transform you. The first is little more than the insanity of humanity, the latter is all about the image of God and Christianity.
As John Piper has said: “Transformation is not switching from the to-do list of the flesh to the to-do list of the law. When Paul replaces the list—the works—of the flesh, he does not replace it with the works of the law, but the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-22). The Christian alternative to immoral behaviors is not a new list of moral behaviors. It is the triumphant power and transformation of the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ—our Savior, our Lord, our Treasure. “