Saturday, 1 June 2013

Sin, Scandal and There, But For the Grace of God: for the Medicine Hat News By the Way Column

As I write, the Senate expense claims scandal continues to simmer and swirl in the news along with the drug related allegations about Toronto's Mayor. 
    Juicy stuff. If I'm honest I have to admit that I can easily allow myself to be sucked into the media excitement and some very self righteous and not very generous thoughts about how the "mighty" seem to have fallen. 
    That has got me thinking about how to resist that all too human tendency which most of us share. As a follower of Jesus how should I respond to such stories? 
    An early sixteenth century Anglican, John Bradford, gives me a clue. “There, but for the grace of God," he wrote, "goes John Bradford,” as he watched fellow Tower of London prisoners being led to their executions. 
    Not many people start out intending to cheat the system in a big way, or at all. Usually, the falling starts in small ways. Integrity is compromised incrementally. 
    Although I may not be mighty I, too, am prone to fall. It's easy. These high profile stories can cause me to think, "I'd never do anything like that," and to forget how easy it is to trip at first, in tiny seemingly insignificant ways, like little “adjustments” or “oversights” on my tax return or my expenses, nothing significant; after all, everyone does it and I put in those extra hours, so they owe me; and so on. Then one day, if I'm not careful, I wake up and realize that I’ve grown into loftier things; things from which there can be a long, public fall. There, the grace of God notwithstanding, I have chosen to go.
    A dramatic and extreme example is Cain’s allowing anger, a fallen countenance and envy of his brother, Abel, grow to murder. This, despite God's pointed warning: "Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:7)
    Sin crouches at my door, too; and yours. It crouches at Mike Duffy's and Pamela Wallin's and Rob Ford's. It desires to have us, and draws us bit by bit, little thing by little thing, but we must master it, mighty or not, or fall. 
    Not only does sin crouch desiring us, it also clings closely (Hebrews 12:1), so we must run the race into which God has entered us; politics, marriage, business, parenting, employment, the church—whatever; with perseverance and integrity looking, above all, to Jesus, who keeps us honest if we let him. 
    In the meantime, pray that by the grace of God, justice is done.