Second chances

dog-homeworkPeople make bad choices. It happens to individuals, it happens to nations. For some reason, Americans have given a failed President a second term. Those who elected him, and Mr. Obama himself, are convinced that all of his past and present troubles should rightly be laid at the feet of former President Bush and uncooperative Republicans in Congress. It’s not his fault!

It’s a common human temptation to play the helpless victim and shift the blame for our failures onto others, and Mr. Obama has certainly made an art form out of the “my dog ate my homework” excuse. Even among adults — abusive husbands, drug addicts, cheating Tour de France winners — blaming others for our own failures is perfectly human, and all too common.

The people have spoken and the people will live with the consequences of their choices, though I think we all are smart enough to be able to predict that bad luck and bad Republicans will continue to get the blame for the past and future failings of the Obama administration, with the President taking the credit for whatever happens to go right. To a greater or lesser degree, this is and always has been the way politics works.

Our universal need for second chances is what the Christian Gospel is all about. As Paul says in Romans 3:23 “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Sin is a universal human disease that has infected every single one of us. But Paul continues in verse 24 with the promise of a second chance: “…and all are justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Just as sin has infected us all, God has offered to inject us free of charge with the antidote to sin, which is the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus, whose death on the cross paid for our sins.

In effect, we are washed free from sin by shifting the blame for what we have done to Christ, who accepts the blame and the punishment for us. The important difference here, made clear elsewhere in Scripture, is that we have to actually admit to our failures, admit to our mistakes, face the reality of our sinfulness and the many creative ways we have broken the laws of God. And then, having humbled ourselves before God, He lifts us up, Christ accepts our blame, and we are set free from sin and sin’s judgment.

The Christian Gospel treats us like adults. No excuses are accepted. No blame-shifting is tolerated. It’s a very tough Gospel that requires us to face up to our actions and inactions before God and come clean.

But once we have done so, we find that God is tremendously generous. The Apostle John put it this way:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! — 1 John 3:1, NIV

We have no way of knowing how Barack Obama’s second chance will work out. For the sake of our nation, we should pray that he does well and is able to make decisions that reduce economic suffering, protect religious freedoms, and secure life, peace and prosperity for our children.

And then, there are the eternal issues. American politics is enormously consequential for our individual lives and the path of world history. But of far greater consequence is the question of the state of our hearts and souls. The living and generous God of the Bible invites us to lay aside our childish excuses and enter into a life-changing relationship with Him. Have you considered His offer?

There is no better time than today to consider your need for forgiveness and salvation — to accept God’s invitation to become a member of his eternal family.

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