Do You Have a Criminal Record?
Criminal records are a big deal in our culture. If you are self-employed, own your own business, or have a squeaky-clean record, you may be far-removed from the issue. But for many, it is an ever-present reality.
Last week I saw a news report from a nearby city about a serious lack of public transportation bus drivers. There were two major reasons given for the deficiency: an improving economy, which gives drivers other job options, and criminal records, which eliminate potential candidates.
The term “criminal” can be interpreted in one of two ways. Technically, anyone who commits a crime is a criminal. But, we don’t normally think of someone who runs a red-light, as serious as their violation might be, as a criminal. A criminal is someone who runs a red light while evading police, after a robbery at the local 7-11.
When it comes to God’s law, we have all been criminals in the first of these ways. The New Testament writer James reminds us, if we break God’s Law in one place, we have broken His Law in its entirety (James 2:10). Fortunately, our guilt can be washed away because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. His blood erases our record and sets us free. However, if we reject this grace we are criminals in the second sense as we have declared open rebellion against God. Jesus warned us it would not go well for those who choose this path. (Matthew 7:23).
Do we have a criminal record?
If we are in Christ, we did have one at one time.
But not anymore.
Our criminal past has been removed. I once heard someone use the word “justify” to say the removal of sin from our lives makes is “just-as-if” we have never sinned. This doesn’t mean we should forget our past. However, it does mean we are now “sinners saved by grace.” This is the same as saying we are no longer criminals. We are no longer in rebellion against God because we have drawn near to His throne of mercy and accepted His gift of forgiveness.
We may still have limitations in this life due to our past crimes. If you are carrying a load of moving violation points on your driving record, I am sorry. The blood of Jesus doesn’t erase those. The boundaries society imposes on us are a part of the price we pay for our past.
Yet, God removes the shackles that keep us from bearing fruit in His name. It might take a long time to prove to others we can be trusted, but God’s eternal grace is immediate. Some of the most incredible transformation stories we will ever hear come from behind prison bars, where redeemed sinners live out the love of God in their daily lives and show others the way to the cross.
Whether you have an official criminal record or not, if you have not accepted God’s mercy you are weighed down by guilt and are limiting the potential He put in you. God wants to free you and use you for His glory. He will help you navigate the twists and turns of life as you give Him your past and step into His vision for your future.
And in the meantime, as you are recreated into the person God wants you to be, obey the law. Running a red light might not keep you out of heaven, but it could get you there a lot quicker.