The conviction in Austria today of Josef Fritzyl for locking his daughter in a cellar over 22 years, fathering seven children with her, and causing the death of an infant son, raises some questions about the nature of and our attitude to evil in our world.
The tabloid frenzy in this case dubbed Fritzyl a ‘monster, and words like ‘depraved’, ‘sadistic’, and ‘horrific’ were used to hammer home the point that he was not like one of us. We are comforted by this distancing of his truly awful acts from the decent ordinary lives that the rest of us supposedly lead! But the only hitch in this scenario is that Josef Fritzyl is 'one of us', just as Hitler and Stalin and a whole gallery of ‘monsters’ down through the ages were also 'one of us'.
Fritzyl’s lawyer really threw a spanner into the simplistic black and white, good and evil world of the tabloid press when he said that, “Fritzyl has a heart and a mind which drive him and needs which destroy him. But he wants to change, there’s good in him.” And this is the rub, is someone who does wicked things all bad or can there be something good in him ? And conversely is somebody who appears right and wholesome ,hiding a darker and more sinister nature ? Strangely many so called ‘good living’ people would be outraged at either suggestion while the Bible, the book that purports to speak for God actually says time and time again that both scenarios are true. Yes, though evil and disobedient (to Gods Law) we still have the capacity to become children of God ! And no, even though we may appear wholly upright and true, there is a nature within that leads us to wrongdoing and wickedness.
The Bible pulls no punches when it describes the human heart as being ‘deceitfully wicked’, and neither does it shy away from our true potential when it promises a new heart and a new start for everyone born of God’s Spirit. Our original Divine blueprint was for perfect goodness but through disobedience that plan was scuppered and we stepped out of our fellowship with the Father. Since that ‘Fall’ we are wired towards evil and only through Redemption can we be restored to Grace and friendship with our Creator.
Even Fritzyl with his litany of heinous deeds, can through Gods Grace become redeemed and renewed. If we deny him that possibility we deny it for ourselves. The Bible is explicitly clear, declaring, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (1) , and equally emphatic when it extends to all Gods own invitation : “ Come let us reason together and though you sins are red as scarlet I will make them white as snow” (2)
At the end of the day Josef Fritzyl stood before a judge and jury and to everyone’s astonishment admitted his guilt and expressed his sorrow for what he had done. We might be sceptical about his sincerity, but the more pressing issue for each one of us is that we are not deluded ourselves, into overlooking the depraved and sinister intent that can underpin even our most ostensibly noble actions.
For Fritzyl the sentence has been passed and he will spend the remainder of his days on this earth deprived of his liberty and like you and I , he will soon face the Divine Arbiter who will pronounce an eternal sentence. Like the thief crucified beside Jesus we can turn towards the Saviour, acknowledge our wrongdoings and ask Him to remember us. How sweet then to hear those words, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise” (3)