One of the new shows that Mandi and I like to watch is Gotham. It is a very interesting show set in DC Comic’s fictional Gotham City. The show focuses on the adventures of Det. James Gordon, who in the future will be the same Commissioner Gordon who becomes a main ally of the Batman. But that is a long way off. Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) is just a young boy.
However Gotham is already in serious trouble, and the idealistic Det. Gordon finds himself the lone uncorrupt cop in the city. While all the cops are bad, they are bad to varying degrees, and Gordon eventually finds an ally (or believes he can make an ally) in his partner Det. Harvey Bullock.
In the episode, “Everybody Has a Cobblepot,” we discover that the Police Commissioner (who is in the pocket of Don Falcone, the head of the mob) has files on all the bad things the cops have done, and uses them as leverage to keep them doing whatever he wants.
Near the end of the episode, Bullock explains to Gordon the rationale for why he did his bad thing (he killed someone) and the struggle he still has with it all these years later.
You know…you tell yourself, “I’ll just do this one bad thing. All the good things I do later will make up for it.” But they don’t. There is still that bad thing.
That gets to the heart of all of us doesn’t it? In 32 words, Bullock lays his finger on the problem we all find ourselves in as fallen, broken people. When we do something bad (be it intentional or unintentional) we tell ourselves the same thing. We rationalize that we needed to do it so that we can be in a position to do good things, or (more often) that we will be able to make up for it (or at least offset it) by doing good things in the future. So we…
…get up earlier to pray,
…promise to increase our giving at church,
…read our Bible more,
…resolve to do volunteer work at the soup kitchen,
…promise to not skip church again,
…or something else. We want to do something to make things right. To make ourselves right.
But inevitably we fail again.
And then again.
And then again.
Now we are not just working to make up for one bad thing but many bad things. And we find ourselves lost in a horrible downward spiral of trying to show that despite our bad things, we really are good.
But it doesn’t work does it? No matter how hard we work to “do good things” they don’t erase the bad do they? We know that we cannot fix ourselves. We can’t make up for the bad we do by any amount of community service or penance. The bad things don’t go away. We may get good at hiding them, denying them, justifying them, or burying them, but they never go away by our efforts.
All living by the law does is show us that we can’t. It doesn’t matter if it is God’s Law which is holy righteous and good (Romans 7:12) or the laws of your community or your own personal laws. All law does is show us that we can’t follow it right. That is what Paul was getting at when he said, I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death (Romans 7:10, NIV).
Where Det. Bullock is left with no solution, God wants us to know there is a solution. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17, NIV).
Grace: a one way love that is willing to come to you and rescue you from the suffocating weight of guilt and shame; a love that is not based in merit or in what Jesus can get from you. It is simply given. A gift. A free gift. Because He chooses to give it. As Jean Val Jean says when he frees Javier in the musical Les Miserables, “You are free! And there are no conditions, no bargains or petitions. There is nothing that I blame you for.”
Nothing that I blame you for? Yup. That is what grace does. It removes the blame. That is where truth comes in.
The truth is God is holy, good, righteous, and just. The truth is the Law is no joke, it is God’s revelation of His character, who He is, and what He expects of us. The truth is if He does not uphold that Law I every way, then He would cease to be holy, good, righteous, and just. He can’t make exceptions.
The truth is the Father has made a way to be both just and forgiving (1 John 1:9). The truth is He sent His Son into the world that He and Jesus created as a new part of that creation. Jesus was born like us, grew up like us, lived like us, worked like us, suffered like us, and died like us. But the best truth is that He did not love like us, or sin like us, or fail like us. He loved perfectly. He lived justly. The truth is because of that perfectly just life, He was able to die for us, to atone for us, to substitute Himself for us. Because of His perfect love for His Father and for us, He was willing to redirect the curse of the Law and the just wrath of His Father for our sin onto Himself (Romans 5:6-11).
The truth is because truth was not compromised, grace now runs free to the Bullock’s of the world (and in case you are wondering, we are all Bullock). All that is needed to get it is to see that grace and truth that the Father offers through Jesus and accept it. If the Father has opened your eyes to see it, take it. It is His free gift of love to you. And all that guilt and shame from the bad things you have done that hounds, accuses, and imprisons you will be gone. You will be free.