CNN had an interview with Rick Warren in the aftermath of the Ashley Smith incident. I know that Warren has many detractors, but all I can say is I rejoice that the gospel message got out on CNN through him.
WARREN: “You know, this guy was acting in — when he started killing people, when Brian Nichols started killing people — when people lack hope, they do hopeless things. And I think this guy actually felt hopeless. And so, he was lashing out, not in a good way. Obviously, he took four lives and we’re sorry for that.
But what people are looking for is a reason for hope. And when Ashley explained to him, you know what, this is not what you’re meant to do, this is not what you’re meant to live for, he immediately resonated from it and actually called her — said you’re an angel sent from God. And the change was instant.
KING: Can he still have, in his situation, a purpose driven life?
WARREN: Absolutely. Now, there’s no doubt that the Bible teaches when someone commits a crime, that the government has the authority to punish people for it. And he may losses his life, he may get the death penalty. But before — as long as he’s alive here on earth, there will be a purpose for his life. And of course, that purpose now becomes greater — and in fact, I think that’s really what the message this week of Easter is, is that God can bring good out of bad.
That he turns crucifixions into resurrections. That he takes the mess of our life, and when we give him all the pieces, he can — God can put it together in a new way. And the message, I think there’s two messages out of this story. One of them is, that God can use anybody. Ashley will tell you, she’s just an ordinary person. She wasn’t some saint. She wasn’t some preacher or some theologian. God uses normal ordinary people in daily life. And if God only used perfect people, nothing would get done. Because none of us are perfect. We’ve all got our faults, mistakes in our backgrounds.
And I think, that’s the story that God uses us in spite of ourselves, in spite of ourselves, and in spite of weaknesses and faults. And I think the other thing is, that opportunities are all around us, but a lot of times we’re just unaware of it. Everybody wants to serve God in a great way. But in that chapter, I talk about, why don’t you just serve God in a little way and watch what he wants to do.
And she, obviously, she just went out for a pack of cigarettes. And as she went out, I’m sure she didn’t have any plan of being some kind of savior or super person. But she just went out for some cigarettes, and when she came back, the opportunity presented itself and she responded in love to this guy and he melted…….
KING: How do you like being, by the way — before we take a break and take calls — I understand that you’re on greeting cards now, quotes from “The Purpose-Driven Life” is in the select group of greetings cared that bookstores are putting it in the front. Are you now a commodity?
WARREN: Well, I hope not. I tell you this. Marketing is when you create a message in order to push a product, but what I’m doing is the exact opposite. I’m just looking for products to share a message, because I believe that the message is life-changing — and by the way, I didn’t come up with that distinction, that was said about me in the New York Times, that I’m creating ways to simply share the message, that God loves you, he has a plan and purpose for your life, Jesus Christ died for you, there is a reason for the things that happen in your life. And even the bad things, God can bring good out of bad.
That’s what Easter’s all about, and — the message isn’t really anything new, Larry. It’s been taught for 2,000 years in churches. If somebody wants to hear it, they don’t have to read my book, just go to church on Easter and hear it……..
CALLER: My question is for Mr. Warren. I love your book, No. 1. And also that, when you do get a chance to see Mr. Nichols, what will you say to him and what questions will you ask him?
WARREN: Well, the first thing I am going to ask him is, have you made your peace with God? Have you developed a relationship with Jesus Christ? Have you asked him for forgiveness for the things that you’ve done? And have you decided to try to make restitution in any way to those who you hurt, the lives that you took? That is the first and foremost thing, is to make sure, first, you’re right with God, and then second, that you’re right with other people as best that you can. Now, he obviously can’t completely recompense those who lost their loved ones, but he needs to do what he can to do that.
KING: You will not condemn him?
WARREN: Well, Jesus came and said, I didn’t come to condemn the world, I came to save it. And I want to be like Jesus. And so if I’m going to condemn anybody, I am going to condemn myself, because I’m just as guilty of doing wrong things and hurting other people — maybe not murder, but Jesus said, you know, if you’ve hated people in your heart, that’s bad, too…………….
WARREN:……everybody’s heard the word “repent” and they don’t really understand what the word means. For a lot of people, when they think of the word repentance, they think of a guy with a sandwich sign that says, “turn or burn,” or, “you’re going to die and fry.”
But actually, repent is the Greek word, metanoia (ph), which means literally “to change your mind.” And it means that when I repent, I change my mind. First, I change my mind about God, I change my mind about myself, I change my mind about others, I change my mind about life. And a lot of people look at repentance as a negative thing, like I’m going to have to give up this, this, and this, and this, and like it’s something terrible.
You know, when I repented, Larry, years ago, I basically turned from hopelessness to hope, from darkness to light, from guilt to forgiveness, from loneliness to a family of God, from purposelessness to purpose, from having no meaning in my life to having meaning. It was the most positive change in my life.
And I think that when Ashley shared this idea, that you know what, even though you’ve gone through what you’ve done, and you’ve done these bad things, that no one is beyond the point of redemption. And I do truly believe that, that even the people who are listening to this program right now, some of them say, man, I’ve done it, I’ve done too many bad things, God’s fed up with me, God wouldn’t be interested in me. God wouldn’t pay me any attention because, you know, I missed that boat a long time ago. And I would say to those people, you’re dead wrong. You’re just dead wrong. There is no pit too deep that God’s love is not deeper still. And I would say that’s true for Brian Nichols, it’s true for me, and it’s true for everybody in the whole world. And that is what is the good news, is that it’s never too late. Never too late. That’s it.
Warren was also asked about Terri Schiavo:
“KING:What do you make of this whole Terri Schiavo matter? The courts have still kept the feeding tube in. The polls indicate the public supports the husband. Where do you stand in all this incredible matter?
WARREN: Yes, you know, Larry, the first place — any poll, you can make a poll say anything you want by the way you frame the question, you know that. I think if people know the real story about Terri — they think that she’s on life support. She’s not. They think she’s brain dead, she’s not.
This is a woman who is not dying, at least she wasn’t, until they started starving her. She’s in a vegetative state. That is not brain dead, and doctors will tell you person can live in a vegetative state 15, 20, 30 years. It’s unlikely that she would come out of it, but a lot of people do, and it does happen.
If I were in a vegetative state, I would hope the people that love me would keep feeding me with the possibility I might come back out of that state. She’s not on life support. This is not a matter — this is not a right to die issue, in my opinion. It is the fact that they were just feeding a person who is, right now, mentally handicapped, and I, personally, I fear the day, that if we start saying, well, you don’t have a right to live if you are mentally handicapped or you’re physically handicapped or emotionally handicapped, and you — we’ll just, you know, stop feeding you. This is starvation. It’s not pulling artificial life support, it’s saying, we’re just not going to feed you anymore. To me, that is an atrocity worthy of Nazism.