As he stood before the judge, with millions of curious Americans eagerly awaiting the decision, O. J. Simpson held his breath. The verdict, the judgment of a group of his peers, was about to be announced, and it was, truly, unbelievably good news. “Not Guilty!” And he broke into tears.
It was Tuesday in America, Oct. 3, 1995, and I remember the event as if it were yesterday.
Along with my former secretary and her family, we were sitting round the dining room table in Camp Hill, PA., and I remember Marlene saying, “They’re going to let him off.” I couldn’t believe it; she was right.
A jury of sympathetic peers chose to exonerate O. J. for the deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman. Within a few months, a civil court would look at the same evidence and find him guilty and liable for $33.5 million in indemnity to the two families involved. But for the moment, O. J. Simpson was a free man.
Life has been tough for O. J. since that day twenty-six years ago. He was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping in 2008 and served a nine-year prison sentence at the Lovelock Correctional Center near Lovelock, NV. But the once well-respected football star and television personality is now a free man and reportedly worth around $3 million. Not bad … all things considered.
I write of this incident, for there is a sense in which it is a metaphor of my life. My crisis was not legal, however; it was spiritual. And as much as I wanted to proclaim my innocence, I was, indeed, guilty. In the words of the New Testament, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There would be no playing with the evidence or denying the truth. The divine verdict was in. “The wages of sin is death!”
But I am a free man! God never declared me innocent; He pronounced me pardoned. My past includes the good, the bad, and yes, a good bit of the ugly, but God says I have been forgiven. “Therefore being justified by faith,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus assumed the penalty for my sin; that was what His death was all about.
The Christian faith is pictured by some as a convenient religious philosophy for the weak and the ignorant, a crutch that proposes divine intervention when life gets tough. But not so! Serving God is no cop-out from the pressures of life. What God does offer, however, is the assurance our sins have been forgiven, life now has purpose and meaning, and, at the end of our journey, eternal life.
“Come to me,” Jesus said, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The invitation is there; the offer stands. Take God at His word, and I guarantee it will change your life!
For more thoughts like these, follow me at indefenseoftruth.net.