King Davids in Their Daily WorkBlog / Produced by The High Calling
Just a few years ago in Wichita, Kansas, a man known as "the BTK Killer" (bind, torture, kill) was sentenced to 175 years in prison. Dennis Rader listened almost passively as the judge pronounced sentencing.
The Old Testament is full of language that sits uneasily in my heart—wicked, for instance, as in Psalm 1: "For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish." Lines like that sound much better out of Old Testament Israel than they do from folks from Cleveland or El Paso. Just who might be wicked and who might not is often a tough call in our world.
But then there is Dennis Rader, a serial murderer who carried out demonic crimes over a thirty-year period while playing cat and mouse with police. Married, with two children, Dennis Rader was a Wichita city employee who enforced zoning and neighborhood codes. He was an active member of a church, where he had been elected the congregation's president. He was a Boy Scout leader. He had served his country in the Air Force, did time in Vietnam. Some who knew him claimed him to be so nondescript that his being BTK seemed impossible.
Would that they were right.
Today, blessedly, he’s behind bars. "Dennis Rader is at least two strangely separate people," said the Witchita Eagle soon after he was caught.
After a fashion, we all are capable of manifesting multiple personalities. Mood swings sometimes turn personalities inside out. Grinners growl—it happens. Takes nothing less than grace itself for anyone to love other people 24/7.
While Dennis Rader's crimes are an abomination and a horror, the man may well bring relief to those of us who would like to define wicked by standards he set, a serial killer. Imagine Dennis Rader standing up and praying in front of his whole church—now that’s hypocrisy, right? Sure, industrial strength.
But let's not forget the hypocrite who played the lead role in one of the great stories of the Bible: a murderer and adulterer who was also king. God Almighty called him, of all men, closest to his heart.
You know the story. One day a kind of bill collector comes along, a prophet named Nathan, who tells the King this story. A rich man had butchered the only lamb a poor man owned simply because the rich guy thought he'd save a buck. "So what do you think of that?" the prophet asks.
The King spits and fumes, and the prophet points a finger. "You're the guy," he says. Poor King David never saw it coming.
In our world there are more King Davids than Dennis Raders, more of us who are unaware of our deceit, blind to our pride, clueless about our ambition. Hypocrisy goes unnoted by most hypocrites because we're all adept liars—even and especially to ourselves. Only the Dennis Raders want to be wicked.
Consistency, integrity, and fairness are not easy to find on weekends or weekdays. If they were, the world would be a much sweeter place.
May God give us grace to see ourselves as others see us.
Lacking that, may he give us Nathans to tell us the stories we need to hear.