There has been a heated debate about the controversial proposals made by the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke, to offer criminals a 50% reduction in their sentence, if they make an early guilty plea. At the moment an early guilty plea brings a 33% reduction in sentence. The proposals were intended to reform sentencing, reduce court time and cut the prison population in order to save £130 million from the Ministry of Justice budget.
Objectors to the proposals said the Justice Secretary was going “soft on crime” and was failing to maintain a commitment to upholding law and order. They maintain that serious criminals and serial offenders should pay the full penalty for their crime and receive no reduction in their sentence. The government has withdrawn the proposals.
This debate raises some interesting points for us all, even if we have never committed a serious crime worthy of a prison sentence. Many people today pay little attention to God’s moral law. They “worship” money and success, they misuse God’s name, they are abusive to their parents, they to not keep Sunday as a special day, they can be hateful to other people, they are sexually immoral, may be dishonest with other people’s possessions, be “economic with the truth” and be envious of what others have and do. In God’s eyes these are serious offences and we are serial offenders. Every day of our lives we break God’s laws. We do not love him with all our heart, soul and mind or love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
Does it matter? Will we, one day, be called to account for what we have done? What penalty do we deserve? Is there any possibility of finding mercy and a reduced sentence? Is God “soft” on sin? Can he forgive us, while at the same time remaining just and righteous? Is it important to make an early guilty plea?
The good news is that in Jesus Christ God has dealt with our law-breaking. God has intervened in an act of amazing love. At great personal cost he gave his Son to die in our place. By his death on the cross, Jesus paid the full penalty of our sins and fully satisfied the demands of God’s justice. When we confess our guilt and ask for his forgiveness, God is satisfied to look on what his Son has done and pardon us. An early guilty plea is essential and always brings God’s mercy for all our sins.