Friday, March 9, 2012


(Painting by Ron DiCianni)

In a stunning 6-3 decision Mar. 8, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the pardons issued by former Gov. Haley Barbour during his final days in office. Barbour had pardoned 198 people, including four persons convicted of murder. Some put the figure of pardoned criminals in the 200 mark.
After the ruling was announced and the initial negative reaction was noised, Barbour defended his controversial pardons. He based his decision on the right defined and given by the state constitution to the governor to offer people who have shown repentance and rehabilitation a second chance.

Needless to say, that even though most of the people pardoned had paid their debt to society, the crime victims didn’t share the governor’s viewpoint.

Randy Walker, a man who was shot in the head by one of the pardoned murderers was outspoken in his criticism of the final decision, “The Supreme Court weighed in and they’ve weighed in on the wrong side of the issue. I think they did what was politically easy for them rather than what was right for the people of Mississippi.”

Joann Martin, whose sister was killed by one of Barbour’s pardoned trustees said, “I hope Haley Barbour and the Supreme Court justices can sleep at night.” She added, “God will have the final say.”

As the dust settles in Mississippi, there will be many who will continue to shake their heads at what is perceived to be a miscarriage of justice. Those who were pardoned will also continue to be amazed at their ‘luck’.

Joann Martin’s observation, ‘God will have the final say’, certainly hit the nail on the head. Martin, along with the majority of people in the South’s Bible belt, probably think the final accounting at the judgment will clear up the matter. Until then some in the Mississippi community will not sleep well at night.

Grace and favor was extended in a controversial fashion by Barbour, but on that final judgment day I believe we will all be amazed at the grace God will be extending to guilty sinners. (Painting by Ron DiCianni)
I, for one, have experienced God’s amazing and totally underserved grace. Fifty-five years ago on a winter night in February, I was set free, pardoned by God’s amazing grace. I am still in awe of the freedom granted to me by a loving God.

Unlike those pardoned by Barbour, I showed no signs of repentance, rehabilitation or remorse. I certainly hadn’t paid any debt to society, nor did I have any remote thought of doing so. You might say I was one of those incorrigibles.

The Bible explains my past condition like this: “At one time you were far away from God and were his enemies because of the evil things you did and thought. But now, by means of the physical death of his Son, God has made you his friends, in order to bring you, holy, pure and faultless, into his presence.” (Colossians 1:21-22)
A few dictionary definitions of grace are ‘unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification’ or, ‘a virtue coming from God’.

In the case of Barbour’s gracious pardons; the convicts are freed, but the guilt no doubt remains. They may walk the streets, take a position with a major company, purchase a house and a car and even join a church, but the stain of their crime will still be in their hearts unless they have repented before God.

The only adequate and complete absolution doesn’t come from an earthly governor or by a Supreme Court ruling. The only true exoneration comes from God through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

“By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God's anger! We were God's enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God's friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ's life! But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God's friends.” (Romans 5:9-11)

I seriously doubt if any of the released and pardoned criminals will be frequenting Barbour’s Mississippi home and be considered as close friends and associates.

As a pardoned sinner, by the grace of God, I am enjoying the fellowship and blessings of my great benefactor every day. Free from the penalty of my sins and the guilt of my past transgressions, I am walking in the joy of the Lord.

Another wonderful thing about this pardon, that I am enjoying, is the non-exclusiveness of the offer. The last invitation extended in the Bible by God says, “Let whoever is thirsty come and drink freely of the water of life.” Salvation is free…forgiveness is free…undeserved grace is free! Who in their right mind would refuse such a pardon?


At March 9, 2012 at 1:47 PM , Blogger A Joyful Noise said...

I do hope the Governor studied each case and that each repentant person did accept Jesus. A second chanch is given to all by our Lord and a third and so on if we need it and we usually do need forgiveness many times. Once is enough to get us saved but we are human for sure.


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