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"The Mayor and the Judge" (posted March 2, 2009)

  Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessnes.
  And you know that He (Jesus) was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.
   - 1 John 3:4-5

What should be done when public officials break the law?

Consider the mayor of one urban American city, caught accepting a $5,000 bribe in exchange for promising government work contracts. Because the transaction was secretly videotaped, his guilt in court was beyond question. But what should be the sentence?

The mayor’s lawyer argued for leniency. “He’s done good things in his life,” the defense attorney said. “All of that must be weighed against what is undoubtedly a serious offense.”

The lawyer’s opinion is not unique. Most people in the world believe the same standard should be applied to their own behavior, especially when it comes to what the Bible calls "sin."

On the one hand, "All unrighteousness is sin,” God declares in 1 John 5:17. This is a high and unyielding standard, and most of us would admit that our guilt is beyond question in some areas.

But on the other hand, we often mention the good we’ve tried to do in our lives as well. Caring for family members, giving to charities, or serving the community are some of the details frequently described.

In the mayor’s case, this was the basis of his attorney's request for leniency. But there was another opinion still to be presented: the opinion of the judge. In a courtroom filled with the mayor’s friends, the judge acknowledged his many helpful accomplishments. “But,” she declared, “that does not erase the actions that were taken here.”

How solemn! Despite his friendships and achievements, the mayor’s guilt could not be erased. There must be a penalty; a prison sentence would be imposed.

In our case, God also consistently applies His holy standards of perfection to our lives. Not one sin is overlooked, for He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31).

Yet God can do something the mayor’s judge could not: He can have mercy. He freely offers it to those who repent of their sins and rely by faith on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, as payment for their guilt.

Don’t depend on the good done in your life; it’s not enough! But the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

S. Campbell

News source: Whelan, Jeff. “Former Passaic mayor gets a 21-month term.” The Star-Ledger, August 16, 2008, p. 1.

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