Every Saturday, when Ann Lee walks to the end of her driveway to get the mail she finds an envelope with the same return address:Harrison County Jail. Inside is always a $1 check with the memo: “For causing the death of your daughter Whitney.” It was Super Bowl Sunday, 1995. Ann strapped her 4 year old daughter Whitney into her car seat and set out for a supermarket near home. Brandon Blendon, 17, was driving behind them, a beer between his legs and two more on the front seat. When she stopped, he didn’t. The pickup slammed into the car, crushing Whitney. She was in a coma for 49 hours before she died.
In the fall of 1996 Judge Whitefield made certain Brandon wouldn’t soon forget his past. He sentenced him to 20 years and ordered him to pay $520 dollars in restitution — $1/week for 10 years. He should’ve sent the last check about 3 years ago.
Can you imagine that burden of guilt? Can’t you just picture pain flowing from pen to check to mother…each week…week after week. Few would question the justice in such a sentence. Only the foolish would think there should be no consequences for our actions. But let me ask you?
Will it be enough? How many years and how many payments would it take to pay for the life of a 4 year old daughter? How many $1 reminders will it take to bring peace to Brandon or Ann or her husband Jack?
What’s your picture of God? Is He your Judge Whitefield? Do you imagine God keeping track of your every offense — every failure; big ones, little ones, secret ones — and He’s gonna make you pay, remind you every day, that you don’t measure up. Or maybe He’s your Ann Lee and you don’t think you’ll ever be able to do enough to make it up to Him, for what you’ve done.
Read what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:18-19:
And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.
Did you catch that? Go ahead and linger there for a moment. Did you know that “in Christ” God doesn’t count your sins against you? Isn’t that incredible? God does not count our trespasses against us. He’s not keeping track. Do you understand? Your biggest sin, your greatest failure, your deepest regrets –past, present, even future, they are covered by the riches of God’s grace. Do you know why? Because the price we could never pay…He paid.
I love how Joe Garlington said it,
If people don’t think that what we are telling them is too good to be true…then we aren’t telling them the good news.
If it sounds too good to be true, it just might be the gospel and this is the message that Jesus has commissioned us to take global.
May Amazing Grace always be our song.