An interesting statement has surfaced in the John Edwards trial. Edwards has admitted that he had an affair during his bid for the Presidential nomination in 2003 while his wife was battling cancer. He has also admitted that he arranged for hundreds of thousands of dollars to be channeled to his mistress and that he arranged for his associate to falsely claim paternity for his child in order to cover up the affair. In preparation for the trial, his attorney has stated, “What John Edwards did may be sinful and immoral, but it was not illegal.”
What does this statement communicate about the moral and spiritual condition of our nation? Does it imply that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you can avoid being punished for it? Does it imply that morality and ethics are less important than the law?
What is legal depends upon the latest laws passed by men and women who are able to garner votes in congress. What is moral is contained in the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” the Great Commandment: “Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” and the Sermon on the Mount.
We all stand in need of God’s grace. The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Without the grace God has extended in Christ we would all be condemned. But I am deeply concerned with the growing misperception that God doesn’t care how we live. Receiving God’s grace requires heartfelt repentance. While Jesus offered eternal life saying, “He who lives and believes in me will never die,” He also warned against religious lip service saying, “Except you repent you shall all likewise perish.”
I don’t know whether John Edwards will be found guilty of misappropriating campaign finances to cover up his moral failure or not. But I do know that all of us will one day stand before God to give account of everything we have ever done. The kind of faith in Jesus Christ that will save us in that day will be reflected in how we live today. Jesus closed his Sermon on the Mount with this warning, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:22-23).
John Edwards got it backwards. Our greatest concern should be whether our actions are moral rather than whether they are legal.