Man is Wolf Unto Man: A Reflection on Dallas, Nice, & Beyond

[Written by Ben Halbrooks]

Having taken 5 or so years of Spanish in school and remembering only the food-related vocab words, I certainly won’t pretend to know any Latin, with the exception of a few famous phrases. One is this: Homo homini lupus – “Man is wolf unto man.” It’s an ancient saying about human nature that’s difficult to deny after the violence and division our country has witnessed just in the last few weeks. Of course, American soil isn’t the only one with fresh stains – in Nice, France, the blood of its terror victims cries out from the ground for justice. In our own country, racism, hatred, and hostility threaten to further factionalize a nation increasingly dominated by a spirit of bitterness and accusation.

My heart aches at the brutal, senseless loss of lives. The families! How will they ever recover? As we mourn and earnestly pray for healing, the news of such horrors is a sobering reminder of an unpopular truth: people are not basically good. Evil is real. Scripture is crystal clear on the point. “The heart,” wrote the prophet Jeremiah, “is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (17:9)

We want to believe that deep down we’re all naturally decent people. That we can fix our situation, our world, through self-help and determination. This regimen. That policy. Trial and error, and we’ll eventually find the perfect ingredients… right? Believing it makes us feel better. But who are we convincing? We look outside ourselves for the problem and within ourselves for the solution. The Gospel shatters our illusions and tells us that’s backwards.

If we strip away all our excuses, we find the core of the problem is us. We are fallen. In and of ourselves, we have no power to overcome evil. Even our best efforts succumb to selfishness. We are all Lady Macbeth, scrubbing our dirty hands in vain. Guilty. The Apostle Paul’s characterization of humanity left to itself is far from flattering: “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:29-31) Man is wolf unto man.

But there was one man who became a lamb.

“Behold, the Lamb of God,” John the Baptist declared of Jesus, “who takes away the sin of the world.” There is no hope but His. “For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Corinthians 5:7) This is the hope of the Gospel. The hope that something outside of ourselves, Someone outside of ourselves, can bring us peace. “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19) Salvation from sin and the brokenness and misery of a fallen world – salvation from Dallas and Nice and every other unspeakable tragedy – comes only through the blood of the Lamb. And His way is love.

So as I mourn, pray, and reflect on these events, my hope is not in the wolves, but in the Lamb. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb… For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:14,17)

People of the Lamb, rest in this:

“‘For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress… The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.” (Isaiah 65:17-19,25)