In its simplest form, grace is defined as getting something that we don’t deserve. None of us are truly deserving of the grace that God gives. It is a gift. Then why is it that we are so determined to be the arbiter of who should get it? I’m faced with question myself today. Yesterday, John Edwards, former U.S. Senator and Vice Presidential and Presidential candidate was acquitted of campaign finance violations. Charged on six counts, he was found not guilty on one account while the jury deadlocked on the other five. He is unlikely to be prosecuted again on those five charges.
There are few politicians that I disagree with more than I do John Edwards. I couldn’t be more opposed to the policies that he has supported, and personally, I never really cared much for him either. I always felt he was arrogant and lacked the authenticity I believe is needed to not only lead our nation, but anyone. I guess that proved to be true, at least in this case. This was not your typical case as it concerns campaign finance abuse. What created such an interest and media frenzy in this case was the purpose for which these charges resulted. It was claimed they were motivated in order to cover up an affair which produced a child, all while Edwards’ wife was battling terminal cancer. Who could be more undeserving of God’s grace? Who could be more undeserving of ours? As I watched the evening news and saw Edwards’ statements I was confronted with my own bias. Is he due less of God’s grace or mine because of our political differences or my personal opinion of him? Certainly not! As the evening went on I began to feel more sympathy toward John Edwards. His sins have been exposed in such a public way and he will forever reap their consequences. King David was guilty of this same sin with Bathsheba. He was publically exposed and suffered the consequences for his actions. Yet David was a man after God’s own heart. This should tell us something about the depth of our sin and the greatness of God’s grace.
Who am I to take pleasure in the public humiliation of John Edwards because he’s different than me? Too often, I think we’re tempted to reserve grace for those in which we are most alike, be it politically, socially or racially. This is not a Christian understanding of grace. Nor is it a proper Christian understanding of grace when we maintain a neutral opinion about what God has defined as sin. Grace is never an advocate of remaining in sin, no matter the degree of that sin. All sin is an offense to God. The Christian faith is truly all about grace. It is about the grace that God has shown in overcoming our sin through the person of Jesus Christ. It is about the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, leading us to live in a way that both pleases and glorifies God.
As I listened to some of the commentary from the news media concerning the Edwards case, it seemed apparent that many were sorrowful, and rightfully so for what this has done to the Edwards family, particularly his children. They are in need of God’s grace because they will always live with this. But there seemed to be less sorrow and grace reserved for John Edwards himself. Maybe he doesn’t deserve it, but neither do we. From such a distance, we don’t know the true guilt or innocence of John Edwards, and we really don’t know if he is truly repentant for his sins. In time we may, but we know this, God sure knows, and that’s what matters most. In grace, we accept people where they are and pray that God continues to change them. So, just as we pray for his family, we should also pray for John Edwards himself. True repentance brings God’s forgiveness. If God can forgive and bestow grace to him, why shouldn’t I? Life events can often be a lesson for each of us. This one made me reflect on God’s grace and who deserves it. As an undeserving recipient of God’s grace, I must offer that same grace to others, even those with whom I have profound disagreement. God often uses humiliation as a means to draw us to Himself. In a statement after his acquittal, John Edwards said he didn’t believe that God was through with him yet. Let’s hope not. Let’s hope and pray that John Edwards has truly learned from what he’s been through and that in the days ahead, he will live a life that glorifies God. While we’re at it, let’s pray that for ourselves as well.