(Photo: Reuters/Sean Gardner)
Outgoing Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has stirred up quite a hornet's nest. On his way out of office, he decided to pardon about 200 convicted criminals, including a handful of murderers. Needless to say, it hasn't gone over well with everyone. Now a Mississippi judge has blocked the release of 21 of those inmates.
This turn of events provides an interesting comparison to the pardon God has made available to every single human being. A major difference is that no one will be able to block the eternal release of those who accept God's pardon. "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:36)
Jesus died for all sinners. God provided a pardon for everyone. In order to receive the pardon, a sinner must accept it. Compare that to our American court system. In a 1915 court case, (Burdick v. United States), the Supreme Court of the United States held that "the pardoned man must accept the pardon. If a pardon is rejected, it cannot be forced upon its subject." Likewise, God does not force anyone to accept His pardon. "Whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." (Revelation 22:17) The worst decision a person could ever make is to reject God's free pardon of his sins.
Some Bible passages state that Jesus died for specific sinners. Other Bible passages state that Jesus died for all sinners. Still other passages state that Jesus died for specific sinners AND for all sinners. But there is not even one passage of Scripture which states that Jesus died ONLY for specific sinners. In other words, God's pardon is not limited to just a few. "We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe." (1 Timothy 4:10)
A person who accepts a pardon from Gov. Barbour will not remain free for long if he chooses to continue committing crimes. A sinner cannot accept God's pardon if he desires to continue sinning. Genuine faith is always accompanied by genuine repentance. Christianity always involves both of them. A Christian is someone who sincerely wants to follow Christ while turning from sin and who sincerely believes that Jesus died to pardon him. Such a person is never called a "hypocrite" in the Bible, but rather a child of God.
In this world, some guilty men go free and a few innocent men go to prison. In God's kingdom, every sinner deserves to pay for his sin. Jesus didn't just die for some sinners. "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18) His pardon is universal. But just like in Burdick v. United States, "the pardoned man must accept the pardon. If a pardon is rejected, it cannot be forced upon its subject."
Are you aware of your sins ("crimes") before Almighty God? Do you honestly think He would be a just God to "let you off the hook" without a pardon? Jesus gave His life on the cross in your place. Your pardon has been announced in God's Word. If you reject it, you will have no one to blame but yourself. God wants you to accept it because He loves you. Do you really want to have to pay for your crimes against God after all that Jesus has done to pardon you? Think carefully and prayerfully about this matter. Your acceptance or rejection of God's gracious pardon will have eternal consequences specifically for you.