Andrée Seu Peterson: Philadelphia story


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Monday, July 22nd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Up next Andrée Seu Peterson with some thoughts on the scandal of the gospel. This is taken from her 2008 book: Won’t Let You Go Unless You Bless Me.

ANDRÉE SEU PETERSON, COMMENTATOR: This one isn’t for children—although there’s irony in the prohibition. The story elements are a hammer, a hatchet, a brick, adolescent treachery, the Supreme Court, and a scandalous finale.

In 2003 a girl of 15 from a blue-collar neighborhood in the City of Brotherly Love enticed a boy into the spit of woods between I-95 and the Delaware River with the promise of sex. Waiting in ambush were the 16-year-old boy’s best friend and two other guys, none yet 18. 

It was Friday and the “young man lacking sense” (Proverbs 7:7) had just got paid, having worked a construction job with his father. He followed the girl, “as an ox goes to the slaughter, as a stag is caught fast, till an arrow pierces its liver; he does not know that it will cost him his life” (Proverbs 7:22-23).

After the massacre, the quartet engaged in a group hug, congratulated themselves, divvied up the contents of the wallet—the princely sum of $500—and copped a few days’ worth of heroin, marijuana, and pills. One of the boys later remarked, “We partied beyond redemption.”

This isn’t the scandal part.

In March of the present year the three boys were given life without parole, just cheating death by a fortuitous confluence of events in which a trial taking place elsewhere in the country got bumped up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which body ruled against the execution of killers under the age of 18. The seductress (let’s call her “Jane”) was handed a sentence of 17 to 35 years.

Jane penned a jailhouse epistle that read like so: “I am a cold-blooded [expletive] death-worshipping [expletive] who survives by feeding off the weak and lonely. I lure them, and then I crush them.”

But this isn’t the scandal either.

Some time later I happened to ask my 23-year-old daughter (not a believer) if she’d been following the case, and she said no, but that she knew Jane’s elder sister. The only other information I got out of her is that the elder sister says she’s been getting letters from Jane, and “they’re full of Jesus.”

This is the scandal.

C.S. Lewis tells of an encounter near the gates of heaven between a murderer now gloriously sanctified and his former co-worker, a visiting resident from hell. The latter is indignant to find the erstwhile murderer in Paradise. The heavenly citizen explains with meekness: “Murdering old Jack wasn’t the worst thing I did. That was the work of a moment and I was half mad when I did it. But I murdered you in my heart, deliberately, for years.”

Unmoved, the hellish tourist stands on his decent earthly record and snarls, “I’m not asking for anybody’s bleeding charity!” “Then do. At once,” replies the Shining one. “Ask for the Bleeding Charity. Everything here is for the asking and nothing can be bought.”

This is the gospel scandal. And just now and then something will happen to remind us just how scandalous grace is.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Andrée Seu Peterson.


(Photo/Creative Commons)

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