“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1
There was an interesting spiritual aspect embedded in a political news story yesterday (disclaimer: I don’t care about the politics of this story). While being interviewed, Joe Arpaio, who Trump recently pardoned, discovered that by accepting the pardon he admitted guilt. Arpaio had been steadfast that he was not guilty of the crimes of which he had been convicted. In order to receive a pardon, the Supreme Court states that it “carries an imputation of guilt and acceptance of a confession of it.”
Simply: to receive a pardon, we must acknowledge our guilt.
Many, if not most, of us are too stubborn to make that confession. Perhaps this is why the phrase “pardon me” has fallen out of favor over the past 200 years. Because the depth of what we are saying if we interrupt someone else or bump into them, is an admission of guilt.
We’d rather live and parent in a Stuart Smiley theology of “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, doggone it, people like me.” Scripture, though, tells us another story.
Romans 8:1 is the hinge of Paul’s letter. The first seven chapters help to establish our guilt. That we are broken people living in a broken world that continue to damage the relationships around us. However, rather than admit our brokenness we would rather minimize sin. We want to manage it by:
- Defending–we justify why we messed up. (I exploded because I had a really stressful day at work).
- Downplaying–we try to suggest that our failings are not that bad. (My drinking is not impacting my relationships).
- Blaming–we argue that our behaviors are due to others or external circumstances. (I cussed because he cut me off).
- Comparing–we point to someone else in an effort to distract. (Yeah, but did you hear what Steven did?)
In doing so, however, we are unable to accept the pardon of God’s grace. No matter how minor we feel that the sin is–it distorts and destroys our relationship with God and one another. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that sin entered the world through a seemingly minor slight like sneaking a bite of food. Even if our mistake is a misdemeanor, in order to receive the pardon, we must acknowledge our guilt.
Because, the rest of the promises laid out in Romans will be out of our reach if we have not openly confessed our sins. If you have never prayed to God, “Lord, I am a helpless and hapless wanderer, who keeps messing up. Please pardon me,” then there is no point in reading the rest of Romans…
- “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)
- “…Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)
- “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
- “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
- “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
These promises of hope, salvation, providential care, and transformation are only available to those who have been pardoned.
So, what are you guilty of? Where has hate, lust, division, drunkenness, envy, deceit, or arrogance driven a wedge between you and others?