I listened to Racheal Denhollander’s witness testimony. It was astonishing as it was harrowing. She spoke with such poise, passion and grace. I found it difficult and uncomfortable to listen to. The problem was I couldn’t quite distance myself from identifying with the man in the dock. He seemed ordinary and I squirmed when she laid out in full, but without prurient detail, the deliberate heinousness of his acts. When she spoke of how he took pleasure in the suffering he was causing, it gripped my stomach.
What disturbed me was that I could take no comfort, no solace in the thought that I was not like him. Of course, I am thinking, “I could never, would never, be able to do what he had done”. The idea was so repulsive, so revolting and detestable. My friends would be quick to bemuse me of that notion “there is no way that you are like that.” they would assure me. Some years I did just that, expressed this feeling to a friend over a recent horrific incident that scarred a close friend and the response was just that “But we all know that you are not that kind of person”. It was good to know that my friend believed that I wasn’t “that kind of person”, but I could see that she didn’t quite understand. Deep down I knew that I was like that man. I belong to the same species. I am made of the same stuff. The reality that evil is not out there but in my own heart is the most terrifying and bleakest thought that there is. I suppose that is why we do our best to hide and cover it up. But it doesn’t always lie low and when it pops up and is exposed, it shakes you to the core. It dissolves all sense of pride and pulls the carpet of self-righteousness from right under your feet. It makes you so aware that the only thing you have is what has been given to you- Grace. It is only by the grace of God that I am not in that dock.
That was why the sermon preached this Sunday in our church was, for me, so helpful and so liberating. It was Romans 5:12-21 grappling with the two states: In Adam and in Christ, with the reference to 1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” In Adam, I am in the dock in Christ I am free.
And that was why Racheal’s testimony was so amazing. In the context of her damning indictment she was able, and somehow knew, that the only thing she could offer was the Gospel of Jesus Christ: the promise of forgiveness and the hope of peace with God.