He is called the Boston Marathon Bomber.
In her opening statement, Clarke told the jury her client did it.
“It was him.”
There is no doubt as to his involvement in the 2013 bombing that killed three people and injured 264 others.
Clarke’s argument is that his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev influenced the then 19-year-old to commit this act of terror that literally ripped limbs from its victims.
This is known in court as mitigating circumstances. Seventeen of the 30 criminal charges faced by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev carry the death penalty. The mitigating circumstances are not presented to prove the defendant’s innocence but to, in this case, prevent him from receiving the death penalty.
God’s mercy is not dependent on mitigating circumstances.
God offers us mercy because of His great love. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
And yet we trudge along, willfully doing our own thing, making excuses and then telling God we’re sorry but…
“It’s just the way I am.”
“I couldn’t help it.”
“It wasn’t all my fault.”
“I didn’t know any better.”
- The fact that your husband is a jerk does not make the thing with guy at the office okay.
- The fact that your wife left you and you are lonely does not make the whole computer thing okay.
- The fact that you overpaid last year, that they will never know or it all comes out in the end does not make fudging the income taxes okay.
You know better.
I think God must get really sick of us not just coming to Him and saying, “Lord, I really messed up. I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”
The thing is that we know when we willfully disobey but we don’t want to admit it’s willful.
We want to pretend we couldn’t help it.
Mercy He has already extended.
What an insult.
This week we celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. He left the magnitude of heaven to spend time on this harsh soil because He loves us. The beloved Son of God, crucified because the Father has mercy on us.
Once we have accepted His redemption, all is forgiven.
What’s with the excuses?
Yes, as fallen man, we will mess up. We are redeemed creatures living in an unredeemed world. But the excuse
“That’s just the way I am”
no longer flies.
Guess what? It isn’t true.
Paul spent the first half of his letter to the church of Ephesus emphasizing their/our beautiful identity in Christ. Chosen, adopted, forgiven, blessed…
He tells us we have been made new.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, [Did you catch that?] even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved.) Ephesians 2:4-5
Then in chapter four he reminds us to “walk worthy of the calling” and in verses 24-31 lists behavior that has no place in our lives.
This is not “oops!” behavior.
- Lying (vs 25) is not accidental.
- The type of anger he mentions in verse 26 is what comes when you allow something from the day to simmer until it turns into more. (See Psalm 4:4)
- Stealing (vs. 28) is a choice.
- Bitterness and rage are things we choose to harbor.
- Read through the first five verses of chapter five as well. You will see that all of these behaviors involve choosing to thumb one’s nose at God.
Apparently the Ephesians were like us – prone to excuses – because Paul wrote, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)
In other words, that is not just the way you are. He is telling us that we have been made new. We need to act like it. In fact, (and this may be a radical thought) all of that behavior is not normal for a child of God.
I’m going to write that again.
Ongoing willful rebellion is not normal behavior for a child of God.
It is all tied in to Ephesians 4:22-24. “That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
And that’s where he begins to tell us the old behavior to get rid of. That old man died. Some of us walk around like zombie Christians, insistent on keeping the old man walking , allowing for mitigating circumstances.
And God says
He knows. He knows we aren’t perfect. He knows it’s hard. He certainly does not want His beloved children to walk in shame for sin that has already been forgiven. But with a God that loving, why do we snub our noses at His mercy by making excuses that there were mitigating circumstances?
The sad thing is that we project this attitude on to the rest of the world. We are forgiven yet we continually offer paltry excuses for our willful rebellion, acting like we don’t know any better, ashamed to come before the throne of grace and lay it all out before Him.
And we offer excuses for every one else who hasn’t yet come to know His mercy.
“Well, I believe people are all basically good.”
“They can’t help it. They just don’t know any better.”
As Paul would say:
Actually, what he did say was:
The only way the world will know their need for Jesus is when they see us relying on our need for His mercy. If man is basically good, there is no need for God.
I really, really want to think that some people just don’t know better – that people don’t understand that there is a need for God. But Jesus spoke hard truth:
“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.”
(And it is the Spirit of truth He talks of in verse 26, who takes away the Believer’s excuses.)
David tells us in Psalm 19:1-6 (AMP) that “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows and proclaims His handiwork….There is no speech nor spoken word [from the stars]; their voice is not heard. Yet their voice [in evidence] goes through all the earth, their sayings to the end of the world…”
God’s very creation testifies His nature and yet man turns a blind eye to it, bastardizing the message He offers. God put every star in place, choreographing the universe into an intricate dance of solar systems, constellations and galaxies. Yet man declares it all started with an accident, turns God’s marvelous dance into a method of fortune telling and insists on worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.
So as followers of Christ, our responsibility is two-fold.
- All is forgiven. We are free! We have to accept responsibility for our own behavior and live that way.
“Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, HCSB)
In this, in our wrongdoing, we set aside our pride and stop making excuses.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
No excuses. The devil didn’t make me do it. It was no one’s fault but my own.
Mercy, not mitigating circumstances.
- Our second responsibility is to show God’s love and mercy to the world.
Not excuses. Mercy.
Not judgment. Mercy.
“For God so loved the world that He gave…”
That’s all that’s needed. No excuse necessary.
For more study on this part of Ephesians, click here to download notes: Ephesians Study; ch.4/5