Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Sin of Murder, Part 3

On December 29 and 30, I wrote about the execution of Tookie Williams for the crime of murder, along with speculations about whether he ever repented--if he was guilty. No matter how hard he worked at trying to discourage teenagers from joining gangs, he could never earn forgiveness. Forgiveness by God is a free gift through Jesus.

I am not particularly picking on Tookie Williams as the ultimate example of evil sinner. He does, however, serve as a concrete person in my ultimate example of what happens when any human being deliberately commits a crime and then later seeks to be redeemed--or for that matter, when any human does any kind of mean or bad thing. The Bible says evil is just evil, and God hates evil. We are subject to the laws of the land. We must obey laws and accept consequences of our actions.

I can think of another concrete person for my ultimate example of what happens.

One February weekend in 1994, my daughter and I went to a literary conference at a lovely, cozy south Texas resort. When we checked out at the end of the weekend, the cost seemed low to me, but I have very little number sense. About an hour down the road, I realized that they had charged us for only one; we really owed twice as much as we paid. We were pressed for time, so I just told myself, “Well, it was their mistake. We don’t have time to go back. I’ll mail it to them.” It was easy to forget.

Then in March, I was swooped up by God’s love and set down by his power in a new place where everything was different. The next fall, I began thinking about that money mistake back there in south Texas and feeling pretty terrible about it. God wouldn’t leave me alone about it, constantly reminding me that it was wrong for me to just ignore it.

“When are you going to send that money?” the voice said. And later, “This month?” And later, “Well, then, when?” It probably didn’t hurt that resort business—they made plenty of money that weekend. But it was eating away at me, so I was the one it was hurting. Or . . . maybe some desk clerk had to make up the difference. I could see that it was not enough to be sorry. Finally, I saved up the money and sent it to them.

Ah, what a relief that was. I felt a huge burden sail away.

The point, I learned, was this: it was not enough for me to be sorry about intentionally forgetting that I had unintentionally cheated the resort out of their money. It had become almost like stealing. I had to be accountable for my actions and send them the full amount I owed. I had to accept that consequence of my behavior.

As for Tookie Williams, who was convicted of murder—execution was the consequence he had to undergo for breaking the law (assuming he was guilty). Maybe his work with teenagers helped make amends for his crime; maybe he helped others not to come under the same kind of influence he had as a youth. People no doubt felt better about him.

When we repent…what does “repent” mean!? It means to feel deep remorse about what we have done—to ask God for forgiveness, to desire to make amends--and to be willing to face the consequences.

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