Mary Beth Nitzschke Franta is dead. Two weeks ago today, she attended a wedding, went and took care of her horses, and went home. That’s where her husband of 25 years beat her and strangled her, then took her body ten miles up the road and dumped it behind a grocery store. He parked their car in the parking lot and walked home.
Her husband, who was drunk at the time of the killing, was stopped by the police during his ten-mile walk but was released. He was caught on two different surveillance cameras, one from the grocery store and the other at a convenience store he stopped in. He is currently being held on a million-dollar bail, with his next hearing in January.
Without knowing anything more than what I see on the web, I think he’s guilty. He will probably be put away for twenty years and come out in 2031 a broken man.
As for Mary Beth’s family, she has two children in their twenties, and three brothers and a sister, and her parents and a step-mother, with various spouses.
I knew Mary Beth when she was in junior high. The family lived next to us, and the kids all played together. I think one time I even was a babysitter for them. I had not seen or spoken with Mary Beth for decades, and had only recently gotten in touch with her father, who happens to live relatively close to us.
I mourn for her, but I do not grieve. There was no closeness, no contact. Based on the past, it is more than John Donne’s “Any man’s death diminishes me”, but my life will not be changed the way her family’s lives will be changed.
Now prepare yourself for a shocking statement, and please read thoroughly before reacting. As horrible as her death was, as premature, as violent as it was, Mary Beth Nitzschke Franta deserved to die, just like I do, and just like you do. Romans 3:23 says
all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
God cannot look upon sin, and we cannot reach Heaven on our own. Mary Beth did not deserve the death she got at the hands of one who promised to love her, but because of living in a sin-drenched world she was not going to live forever. And because of the life she lived (and that each and every one of us lives), she deserves to go to hell (as we all do). God’s bar is perfection, complete and absolute, with no failures, and we do not reach that level.
But one man did. Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary, remained faithful and loving to his Father and to the rest of humanity. Even as Jesus was being beaten, He loved and did not sin. Isaiah 53:7 prophesies about the end of Jesus’ life:
He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
If I was in the situation of someone attacking me, I would not be silent, nor would I be led. I would be kicking and screaming with everything I could muster. But I am not holy, and I am selfish. I do not have perfection, nor have I been given the task of dying so that all of humanity, even the ones that beat me, might have the chance to go to Heaven.
There are news reports that Mary Beth’s husband wept in court. I’m sure that he wishes that he could un-do what he did two weeks ago, and the choices he made that led up to the murder. Life is not like that.
But God is. Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we all have the option to accept His salvation and His lordship in our lives. That doesn’t make the bad choices go away – we still have to deal with our drunkenness and murders, our lies and gossip, our infidelities and theft, our anger and selfishness. But we don’t have to pay the price for the wrong – Jesus took that upon Himself, if we trust in Him instead of trying to do it all ourselves.
I hope that Mary Beth trusted in Jesus for her salvation. Working in a school, training horses, raising children – these are all good things, but will not get you to Heaven. And I hope that Mary Beth’s husband will trust Jesus for his salvation – drunkenness and murder are bad things, but they do not have to keep him (or you, or me) out of Heaven. Jesus said it best (as always):
I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.
That truth does not change, regardless of our past or our future, regardless of the harm we have done or that we have received.
The truth is eternal.