On Thursday of this past week, Will N. was sentenced to life in prison on charges related to molesting a teenager and child pornography. It was painful day for Will, who will spend his first of many Christmas days in jail, but what he suffers and will suffer to the end of his life, cannot be compared to the pain inflicted on the victims of his actions and their families. Sadly, the circle of pain extends to many I know who worked with him and for him over the past ten years as the transportation manager for our county’s school board. It was in that capacity I knew him, and yet again did not know him.
After retiring from a pastorate in New England four years ago, I worked part time for Will as a school bus driver and later as a transportation assistant. He struck me as professional and competent, kind and empathetic, a young man with great administrative potential. His oral presentations at our annual in-service trainings were spot on, and I personally encouraged him as a speaker, which just happens to be my “stock and trade.” But what I didn’t see was the evil to which he was enslaved, and willingly so.
Will led a double life, but eventually the true master of his life was exposed. I couldn’t help but remember the words of Bob Dylan,
You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
“Gotta Serve Somebody,” Slow Train Coming Album, 1979
At some point in life, we all make a choice about for whom we will live. The outcome of our lives and the way in which we are remembered hinges on that decision. I suspect Will’s descent into a living hell was not sudden and deliberate, but involved a long series of compromises in the wrong direction. Still, at some point he chose the wrong master. Most of us will never be as bad as we could possibly be, but if we choose wrong, the potential is there. That is why Christ came into the world so long ago, to offer us a living hope and the ultimate antidote to sin and death.
At Christmas, we are presented with a choice. Serve the One who is called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6),”or serve a lesser god. That choice will ultimately be our reward or our ruin.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV
“But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” John 1:12 KJV