Originally scheduled for February 9
The bailiff had his hands full that morning. He
had about 40 men to seat alongside the courthouse wall — in
alphabetical order. This was complicated by the fact that the
bailiff spoke no Spanish, and most of the people he was seating
spoke no English. After much arm waving and name calling (no offense
intended) he managed to get all of them seated.
The judge came in, followed by a clerk carrying
a huge stack of manila folders. A translator approached the bench
and introduced himself. The proceedings began. The judge would call
a name. The individual stepped forward and approached the bench. We
then heard something like this: “I see that you’ve attended all the
required counseling sessions; I also see that you have not been in
any further trouble. Since you have completed all the requirements,
you are now permitted to say that you have never been convicted of
The reaction of the visitors in court was
fairly quick. “What do you mean you’ve never been convicted of drunk
driving? What are you doing here if you weren’t a drunk driver?” It
seemed outrageous at first. But please think along the lines of our
court system for a moment. Nobody wants to hire a drunk driver.
These men had families to support. How are they to get a job if they
had to carry the label “drunk driver” around their necks? So our
system had developed a way to forgive and forget this offense — and
likely enough to prevent the man from getting into further trouble.
There is a parallel here to Christ’s
forgiveness. It’s really fairly simple when you think about it:
You are a
sinner — no getting around it. If only at the Last Judgment you will
face the court to account for your sins.
that you repent so that you might receive his forgiveness.
Repentance includes changing your behavior. It also includes getting
help to keep you from doing it again. He then asks you to follow
him, rather than the way of the world.
response, he erases your sin from the record. You are now officially
“not guilty.” It sounds a little outrageous, but remember that guilt
is a fact, not just a feeling. By his authority, he changes that
fact from guilty to not guilty.
But this forgiveness comes at a cost. Like all
forgiveness, it is costly to the one who is doing the forgiving.
Christ forgives you at the expense of his body and blood, given up
for you on the Cross. He wants you to remember that. That’s why he
gave us communion — so that we would remember.
Forgiveness is not cheap. This applies to his
great example on the Cross, or our attempts to follow that great
example. We cannot repay his grace — but we can pass it on.