“A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
Is there anyone who is completely guilty? Is there anyone who is completely innocent? Is there, truly, any such person? The whole concept of guilt or innocence is something that is argued back and forth in our culture and in our legal system.
When I was a chaplain at Indiana State Prison and Lakeside Prison in Michigan City, I was introduced to the question of guilt or innocence. There were many men I met who were truly guilty and several, I believed, who were truly innocent. I know that I was not alone in that as well. Because of circumstances, there are times that an innocent person is found guilty and sentenced.
Yet, even then, guilt and innocence would get discussed. I met many a man who stated in one way, shape, or form that they were guilty of crimes; but, they were innocent of the charges that ultimately led to their incarceration. They would have no problem admitting guilt to something else. They just were offended that they were convicted wrongly.
We have probably all been on that side of the equation once or twice in our lives, haven’t we? Oh, we may not have suffered incarceration for it; but, we were convicted wrongly by someone in terms of their talk. They may have blamed us for something that was not our fault, labelled us falsely, called to question our integrity or morality, or other such things. We may have felt horrible afterwards and, for some of the statements against us, we may have even had our reputation among people — family, friends, workmates — tarnished or destroyed.
We could echo, at those times, what several of the prisoners said to me, “I may have been guilty of other things, yet not of that.” Our indignation may have been righteous, even as our guilt for other things spoke to us in the background.
But, Jesus? Perhaps in the whole of history, there would be only one man who was and is truly innocent: Jesus Christ. He was born innocent and He died innocent. His life was fraught with peril and His death was horrible. Yet, He chose to suffer and die for us because of His great love for us. Gandhi would call that act of Jesus a “perfect act”. Only someone who is truly innocent in all aspects of life and who accepts condemnation and death can have the offering of His life accepted by God.
FAITH ACTION: Make a firm intention to forgive those who have wronged you and seek forgiveness from those you have wronged.