Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Time Does Not Forgive Sin

This morning I was sent a link to an MSNBC story about Yolanda Quesada. The link was sent to me by Troy Edwards and Mario Andreani (Cedar Rapids, IA), and Karen Thomas (Fort Collins, Colorado).

Yolanda Quesada who, by all accounts, was a model employee for Wells Fargo. She was recognized and awarded several times for her exemplary work ethic and performance. However, during a recent background check, Wells Fargo discovered Yolanda had two 40-year-old convictions for shoplifting. Now 58, Yolanda was 18 when she committed the crimes.

A representative for Wells Fargo was quoted as saying:
"We are bound by federal law that generally prohibits us from hiring or continuing the employment of any person who we know has a criminal record involving dishonesty or breach of trust."
Wells Fargo told the truth regarding the prohibition of hiring or maintaining an employ who has a conviction for a crime involving dishonesty or breach of trust.

The comments on the story's webpage are what one might expect. Here are some examples:
"Steal a chicken to feed your family, go to jail, and are excluded from our capitalist system. A white collar steals the farm and she gets a bonus. Hmmm. Something really backwards about this situation."

"40 years ago - highschool. So she's 58 plus minus a bit. Age discrimination."

"I jacked some cheese and crackers when I was eight. I probably shouldn't be allowed to work anywhere."

"Does Wells Fargo know the difference between the letter of the law and the intent of the law? Penny Wise, Pound Foolish. This just makes Wells Fargo look stupid, petty and unevolved."

"Sounds more like age and wage discrimination to me. They can hire someone half her age at probably half the salary."

"I stole a toy horse from a dime store when I was a kid. I wouldn't even think to disclose that to an employer because, until this discussion, I had almost forgotten about it . . . 90% of the population would be ineligible for employment if we were judged by the petty things we did between 5 and 20 years of age!"

The Huffington Post, in reporting about Yolanda's firing, referred to her shoplifting convictions as "youthful indiscretions." The report went on to say that, according to Yolanda, the reason she committed the thefts because "she was one of twelve children; money was tight; and she needed clothes for work."

Jim Stingl, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in his editorial regarding Yolanda's case, wrote:
"Yolanda Quesada loved her customer service job at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in Milwaukee. She hoped to retire from there someday.

"Last week, she was fired. The reason: She shoplifted in 1972.

"Really? A minor stumble 40 years ago means she's not fit to answer the phone and help people with their mortgage questions? She doesn't handle money as part of her job . . .

"You wonder how long the minor infractions from our teen years should be held against us. Obviously, Wells Fargo thinks the answer is 40 years or more."
Admittedly and unashamedly, my heart goes out to Yolanda Quesada. If I was her supervisor at work, it would break my heart to have to let her go. Millions upon millions of people are out of work. The United States, if it hasn't reached the point already, is teetering on the precipice of another Great Depression. People are losing their homes as a result of being unemployed for the first time, for some, in decades. Despondent men and women are turning to suicide, believing they have nowhere else to turn. The world is a tough place, and it's only going to get tougher.

I think it's commendable that Yolanda did not go down the sometimes short road that leads to incarceration and recidivism; but instead, became a productive member of society. While I don't excuse her shoplifting of 40 years ago, I can understand the feelings and pressures that may have driven her to those criminal and sinful decisions. My family was on welfare during all of my teenage years. So, I can empathize with those struggling to be content with a bowl of cold cereal for dinner, coveting what others have, or contemplating stealing to meet needs (real or perceived). Again, I do not condone or excuse such behavior; but I can understand how some, in situations of the kind Yolanda found herself 40 years ago, might be tempted to sin and fall prey to that temptation because of their sinful nature (James 1:13-14).

However, Yolanda's story and the reaction to it point out an important biblical truth. Time does not forgive sin.

Everything Is In The Past

When I have opportunity to engage people in conversation about spiritual matters, after holding the mirror of God's moral law in front of the person, it never fails that I hear a common excuse for their sins against God. "That was in the past."

I explain to the person that everything is in the past. What they just said to me was in the past. What I just said to them was in the past. Every moment is in the past a moment later. Every idle word; every wayward thought; every wrong decision; every sinful act is in the past. The fact that every sin committed--whether in thought, word, or deed; whether a sin of omission or a sin of commission--is in the past does not exonerate a person of their sin. Time does not forgive sin.

Yes, according to man's law Yolanda Quesada paid her debt to society. She fulfilled the requirements of man's law by paying her fine and spending time on probation. But consequences remain. If a person steals my car, I will forgive them for their crime, but I won't allow them to borrow my car. They will receive my forgiveness, but I may never trust them again. Yes, what Yolanda Quesada did was in the past, but the consequences remain. And she should have thought about that as an 18-year-old shoplifter. But how many 18-year-olds think that deeply--that far into the future?

Be that as it may, even though everything is in the past, time does not forgive sin.

Redefining Terms Won't Save You

"Petty things;" "youthful indiscretions;" "a minor stumble;" and the list of minimizing terms goes on and on and on. Sadly, segments of the American Church have propagated the minimization of the sinfulness of sin by using similar terminology to describe transgressing the moral law of God. Sins are now referred to in many churches as "mistakes," "hang-ups," and "bad habits."

But redefining terms does not get anyone off the hook. Sin remains sin in God's eyes, regardless of how much we have minimized our sin in our own eyes, our own hearts, our own minds. And time does not forgive sin.

The Debt Must Be Paid

Even though Yolanda Quesada paid her "debt to society," unless she knows Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, she still owes an insurmountable debt to God. For while in the eyes of many she merely committed a couple minor offenses according to man's law, what she did is counted as infinitely sinful to the infinite holy Creator...Judge...God.

The debt must be paid, for time does not forgive sin.

The Word of God makes it clear: "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22). And, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight" (Ephesians 1:7-18). And let us not forgive the words of the Sacrifice Himself. "And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'" (Matthew 27:27-28).

In the end, it will either be the blood of the sinner or the blood of the Savior that will satisfy the holy, righteous, just, and good wrath of God. Time does not forgive sin, and time does not satisfy the wrath of God.

"Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15)! Yes, thanks be to God that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh to make propitiation (see Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10) to God for our sins. It is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, through the shedding of His innocent blood on the cross that a person receives forgiveness for their sins against God--past, present, and future.

Time does not forgive sin....but Jesus Christ does!