Happy Mercy Monday Y’all! I’m linking up again today with Jenn to talk about mercy as pardon.
When we pardon someone we not only forgive him for his offense, we actually wipe the slate clean. If I accidentally bump into someone in a coffee shop and say “pardon me” I’m asking that person to not only forgive me for spilling the coffee, but to also count me innocent of the bump – I didn’t do it on purpose, so it wasn’t a malicious act I deserve to be punished for. Legally, when one of our nation’s leaders pardons an offender, the leader is declaring that not only is the offender no longer subject to punishment, but that in fact the offender isn’t an offender at all. All this to say, that when we’ve been pardoned, we’ve been spared punishment AND labeling.
God offered us a full pardon when he turned his wrath against sin on his son. It can be tempting, then, to believe that our sin doesn’t matter all that much. If God’s going to spare us punishment AND the label of sinner, why should it matter how we treat the people around us? Why should it matter if we wallow in selfishness? But while those who follow Christ do have the unbelievable mercy of pardon, all sin has consequence.
I am reminded of a case I followed for some years. A man had been convicted of murdering a woman and sentenced death. He maintained his innocence the but the evidence against him was damning. You see, shortly before her murder, this man had been seen drinking and doing drugs with her at a local bar. He had been violent with women in the past and was known to intimidate ex-girlfriends by following them around his town. After a short trial, a jury convicted him of first degree murder, based in large part on a history of violent sin.
This man spent nearly 20 years in prison (while he received the death penalty, the state he was sentenced in had placed a moratorium on executions), declaring his innocence to anyone who would listen. Meanwhile, in a forensics lab, a DNA sample associated with his case slowly inched closer and closer to the top of the test list until one day, a lab worker ran the sample and realized that this man couldn’t be the murderer. After many more months of legal wrangling, the man was officially pardoned: released from prison, declared innocent and payed restitution for his suffering.
It’s clear that sin had dire consequences in this man’s life. He was imprisoned for two decades, missing the opportunity to raise his children or live his life because he’d behaved violently in the past, because he’d used drugs. His own sin made him look guilty. The sin of another, the real murderer, ended the victim’s life and destroyed the lives of those who loved her, the man wrongly convicted and his loved ones.
The most humbling – and telling – part of this story, though, came in an interview with the pardoned man several years later. The reporter asked him if he was bitter about how his life had turned out.
With great humility he stated that he had no reason to be bitter. He’d done terrible things to people and lived his life selfishly and he’d paid a great price for that. Then he looked right into the camera and said “There is justice in this world. Every time you hurt someone or do something bad you should know that there will be consequences. I am not a murderer but I have done things that deserved punishment.”
God promised us a pardon if only we would believe. As with the wrongly convicted man, this means that we are forgiven, our lives are spared the punishment we deserve and when we leave this sinful world, God erases the label “sinner.” But while we live in a sinful world, because he is also a just God, we will see the consequences of our sin.
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