“What will happen if I cause someone’s death on the road?” The new driver thought to herself.
She came up with this list in a split second: Jail time, a criminal record, guilt and regret.
Thought of the costly consequences caused her to sit up and slow down, becoming even more aware of the cars and pedestrians around her.
By then, she had latched onto the thought of a permanent blemish – a wrong that cannot be reversed, a criminal record that will be held to her name for as long as she lived. And it frustrated her.
“It feels all so permanent. One mistake – and that’s it. There is just no way to undo something that did happen, right?”
This time, she was referring to the human conscience.
“What can a person do to undo the weight of a guilty conscience?”
At this point, she was thinking about all the wrongs a person could commit – a lie, a bad thought, selfishness, malice – the range of weights of guilt that could weigh on a person, without a trace or mark visible to another person.
She’d read before that Oswald Chambers puts it this way: “Conscience is that ability within me that attaches itself to the highest standard I know.”
“So what is the highest standard you know?”
This made her remember an exchange between a mother and her son: “Some men call it conscience, but I prefer to call it the voice of God in the soul of man. If you listen and obey it, it will speak clearer and clearer, and always guide you right; but if you turn a deaf ear or disobey, then it will fade out little by little, and leave you in the dark without a guide.
“Your life, my son, depends on heeding that little voice.’”
It implied that the highest standard is one held by God, one we should attach ourselves to.
“But why would we attach ourselves to God’s standard if it is so high?”
No wonder the Bible puts it this way: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We may choose not to heed God’s standard, but it doesn’t make change the fact that His is the highest standard.
“No one can meet such a standard! It’s a setup for failure!”
Sin is anything that falls short of God’s standard, and it is so whether or not we choose to subscribe to His standard. If I think that stealing is not a crime, it doesn’t cease to be a crime. And when we commit a crime, we are punished according to the law and convicted by a judge. When we sin, likewise, there are consequences.
“Is sin therefore like a crime according to God’s standards?”
You could say so. Because of the destructive nature of sin, death is the punishment for sin. We are aware of death, aren’t we? When young, we ask this question: Where do people go after they die? I think that we ask that in our innocence because we feel it in our hearts that people are not meant to die.
“But people do die. We all will die. That’s a fact.”
Death is only a fact because sin is real. It was not the natural order of things, that’s why death affects us the way it does. No matter how good or bad a person is by our standards – death comes, because we have all done wrong.
Sin is as real as death – but forgiveness is also as real as life.
Though death for all is our present reality, the Bible also says this about God: “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”
Sin is as real as death – but forgiveness is also as real as life. When God forgives sin, the result is life as it was meant to be – eternal. Life for all – is God’s original design for our world.
When God made us, He designed for us to be with Him forever. Don’t mistake eternal death and eternal life for fable because they are both real.
“If God forgives us – then why doesn’t everyone automatically have eternal life?”
Think of forgiveness as a gift. God offers forgiveness from sins, as a gift unto us, but we have to go to Him in order to receive the gift.
“That’s easier said than done. How do we go to God?”
Do you know what kind of people return to God?
“Those who know that they have sinned?”
The sinner knows that his punishment should have been death, but because of God’s mercy, he does not receive death.
In order that God may forgive us for our sins, our sins had to be atoned and paid for – the criminal does not get to walk free before he pays for his crime.
When it comes to sin, no other forms of atonement but death would suffice: A life for a life, blood for blood.
That was the reason why Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, had to die on our behalf – so that we may be forgiven. Because of Jesus’ death and on the cross, we can go to God to receive forgiveness for our sins.
When Jesus rose to life again three days after his death, God demonstrated His resurrection power. Because Jesus Christ lives, so can we, and we will cross from death into eternal life – and not eternal death as we originally deserved.
That was my journey to make sense of punishment, death, sin, wrong-doing, love and forgiveness. It began long before I even understood the gravity of my grappling.
As children, we asked adults where people went after they died. I can’t remember if any adult told me that they went to a better place, and I don’t know if they believed it to be true.
I had a knowledge of my wrong-doing; I made mistakes that left me unsure who I had to go to for forgiveness. Who could forgive me if the wrong I had done wasn’t against them? Why did I have the sense that I did wrong?
I had no knowledge of what sin was, or who God was, but my conscience knew – it didn’t matter how trivial the offence seemed to be, because no sin is trivial.
Even as I seemed to have stumbled upon the Truth of Jesus Christ by chance, I knew that it was not by my mere stumbling that I should be given a chance to come into the promise of eternal life.
The grace of God paved the way for me to even begin to understand the mystery of God’s love and forgiveness for me, through Jesus Christ. The gifts of Father God we cannot buy nor do without.
But we can receive it.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6)
This is the message of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ: Come to me, acknowledge me as your Lord and Saviour, receive forgiveness, and I will set you free – forever.