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Friday, January 13, 2012

Governor Haley Barbour pardons 210 prison inmates

There's a storm brewing in Mississippi.  Just hours before Governor Haley
Barbour left office as governor of that state, he issued pardons for 210 prison
inmates.  Some of those who were pardoned were convicted of rape or robbery.  To
be pardoned means that they are now considered as having paid their debt to
society.  They don't have to serve any more time in jail; they don't even have
to report to a parole officer.

Families of the victims of these crimes are understandably upset.  No
explanation was given for the pardon of most.  In many cases there was no notice
given that the convicts might be pardoned, something required by Mississippi
law.  Authorities are looking into the matter, and it may be that some who have
been released will have their pardons revoked.

A similar situation happened in Tennessee in 1979.  Outgoing Governor Ray
Blanton issued pardons to a few convicts on January 15, including a man who had
been convicted of murdering his ex-wife and her boyfriend.  Fearing more pardons
were about to be handed down, Governor-elect Lamar Alexander was sworn into
office on January 17, three days ahead of the scheduled inauguration, thus
depriving Blanton of the power to pardon any others.

As we grumble over examples of powerful people pardoning the unjust, shouldn't
we look upward as well?  Isn't that precisely what God has offered to do for
each of us - to forgive our sins (or, in legal terms, to pardon those who are
guilty of breaking the law)?

It is well known that Jesus came to earth to make forgiveness possible.  But
this tendency of God is found before Christ's appearing on earth.  Here is how
the prophet Micah portrayed God: "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and
passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not
retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy" (Micah 7:18).  Doesn't
this put God in the same bad light as the governors mentioned above?

Here's the difference: In the Mississippi and Tennessee cases, justice had not
been served.  In our case, justice has been served.  But how?  I've never been
punished by God for sins I've committed.

Paul gave the explanation in Romans 3:24-26.  Jesus, Paul wrote, is our
"propitiation".  That's a word that means appeasement.  Things have been made
right with one who has been offended.  Jesus, who lived a perfect life, shed His
innocent blood to pay the price for the sins of mankind.

This helps us to understand a most important point in verse 26: "To demonstrate
at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier
of the one who has faith in Jesus."  Even though God regularly pardons those who
have broken His laws, He is just in doing so.  Jesus paid the price for us.
Justice has been served for you and me.

But God's offer of pardon has to be accepted.  And accepting the offer of
salvation involves more than just believing: "And having been perfected, [Jesus]
became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9).  If
obeying Jesus means that my violations of God's laws will be pardoned, I'll be
happy to obey anything He says!

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit
and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you'd like to discuss these
ideas further.

Timothy D. Hall

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