Someone’s Got to Go to Prison

In the movie, National Treasure, there’s a scene where the protagonist (Ben Gates, played by Nicholas Cage) is talking with FBI Special Agent Sadusky (played by Harvey Keitel):

Sadusky: So, here is your options: Door number one – you go to prison for a very long time. Door number two – we’re going to get back the Declaration of Independence; you help us find it, and… you still go to prison for a very long time. But you’ll feel better inside.

Ben Gates: Is there a door that doesn’t lead to prison?

Sadusky: [laughing] Someone’s got to go to prison, Ben.

In parts of the world where we have fast food, movies with happy endings, and a general sense of entitlement, ideas like personal responsibility for one’s actions (and the consequences that justice demands) can sometimes be tough concepts to appreciate.  In this movie, when the Declaration of Independence was stolen (albeit for altruistic reasons), someone was going to have to be held responsible.

And, isn’t that the way for other situations that we deal with?  When times of scarcity come, and there isn’t enough food to go around, someone is going to go hungry.  When there isn’t enough money in a company to keep everyone employed, someone is going to going to lose their job.  When disease (or a pandemic!) strikes, no matter what precautions are taken, someone is going to be harmed (whether from the disease, the preventive measures, or – occasionally – the cure).  When wars break out, casualties are going to be inflicted – even so-called “cold wars”.

Those who are not fighting for their lives sometimes argue over the “best” way to handle these situations, and it seems that many (especially those who aren’t responsible for the outcome) claim to have some “easy” solution that would just make everything better.  In reality, though, terrible events like these are bad for a reason: no matter what a society chooses to do, someone – and maybe a lot of people – is going to get hurt or die.

In these times, I don’t envy the leaders who have to make difficult decisions.  No one wants to decide who stays and who goes.  No human being should have to decide who lives and who dies.  I have great respect for those who accept their role in making these decisions during troubled times, who do their best to make the “least bad” decision from a list of unpleasant options (often with incomplete information), and who accept the responsibility for the results (both good and bad).

In a larger scope, though, when each of us chose to sin and separate ourselves from God, we created a similar situation.  No longer qualified to have a healthy relationship with a perfect, holy God, we were lost.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.
Romans 5:12 NLT

With sin in the world (ranging from Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience to our own modern-day choices), let’s face it, “Someone’s got to die.”  This isn’t God being malicious or vengeful; it’s just the way it is.  There’s a fundamental incompatibility between our sinfulness and His holiness.  Death – separation from a good God – is the choice that we made when we rebelled against Him.

Praise be to God that He loved us so much that He provided a solution.  God (specifically Jesus Christ) came to earth, lived a perfect life (so as to not lose His right to fellowship with God the Father), and then gave that life up for us.  Jesus did so, knowing that someone had to die, and so He voluntarily chose to be the one who died.  The awful mess that we put ourselves in when we corrupted God’s creation (i.e., ourselves), well, that left us with no hope…until God chose to pay the price that we owed.

God didn’t cause us to sin, but He took on the consequences.  God didn’t create the problem, but He fixed it.  God didn’t owe us anything, but He paid for everything.  That is the God of the Bible, and that is how much He loved the human race.

So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
1 Corinthians 15:21‭-‬22 NLT

So yeah, sin is a really ugly thing: probably a lot worse than we realize much of the time.  Someone had to die.  Rather than leaving us sinners eternally separated from Himself, though, Jesus died in our place, and all we have to do is to accept His offer and follow Him (instead of our following our own selfish selves).  If you haven’t heard and accepted Jesus’ invitation, please consider that He offers it to you, and that you can accept it today.  He already died, so that you and I can have eternal life.

If you have already received that gift, I invite you to pause and be thankful for it today.  We didn’t earn salvation, but we don’t have to suffer eternal death.  Someone did die, and since it wasn’t us, He is worth all of our praise and gratitude.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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