We live in a time and culture where many who break the law do not get the full punishment the law calls for. Their lawyers do the plea bargain dance, and it is so common in the courtroom, we’re surprised when a plea bargain doesn’t happen.
That hasn’t always been the case. The law was the law, and any infraction of the law meant a sure and certain punishment. No one got off the hook, but occasionally someone got a lesser punishment.
- In 1431, Joan of Arc was told her life would be spared if she confessed, which she did. Of course, she then recanted her confession, and she was burned at the stake.
- In the Salem witch trials of 1692, alleged witches were told their lives would be spared if they tattled on other witches.
These were forms of plea bargaining, but the overall idea never gained popularity until the later 1800s. Now in some areas, 90% of the cases involve a plea bargain.
How do I feel about plea bargains? I’m all for grace, but I’m also for justice. Some folks admit their guilt and get off with a slap on the wrist, while others guilty of the same crime face a far harsher sentence. Perhaps there are cases where a plea bargain is both just and merciful, but it seems to be just a big loophole for a lot of guilty people.
There’s no loophole with God. Just try plea bargaining with Him.
“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing” (Isa. 61:8).
“Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism” (Col. 3:25).
The Old Testament law had no place for plea bargaining. There’s not a hint of plea bargaining anywhere in Scripture. You sin. You pay. That’s it.
A lot of people think if they turn over a new leaf and quit what they’re doing, God will cut them a deal. It’s good they stopped sinning, but the previous sin still has to be paid for. That’s justice.
Jesus changed everything. He took your sin as His own. He took the punishment—the death that was rightfully yours—and died in your place. Justice was served, and you get to walk away from the gallows a free person.
Don’t count on a plea bargain when your turn comes to stand before the Judge. He has no place for plea bargains, but He does have room for grace.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
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