The Mercy of God for Law-breakers

The riots of the past week have come as a shock to many people in Britain. The pictures of criminal damage, looting and assaults, many carried out by young people, gave an insight into the serious problems facing us as a society. More than 3000 people have been arrested in London alone. Many people have already appeared in court and been sentenced. There seems to be a determination to make examples of those involved in the rioting and to impose the maximum possible sentences.

The Prime Minister has spoken of a “moral collapse” and has said that our society is “broken.” He says that the state system has incentivised “some of the worst aspects of human nature”. If this is true, then it is the result of us having rejected our Judaeo-Christian heritage. The new “morality” promoted by leaders in all sections of our society is the old immorality. What used to be seen as wrong is now right. It is no surprise that this revision of “private” morality has led to chaos and public disorder.

Many have been surprised that some of the people involved in the riots are well-educated and well-off. For many years we have been told that all people are essentially good and that education and material prosperity create good citizens. But now it can be seen that those who are well-educated and prosperous, including some MPs, journalists and policemen, are capable of dishonesty and criminal behaviour.

The Bible teaches that, from our birth, we all struggle with a sinful nature. We know what is right, because it is written on our God-given conscience, but we still do wrong things. It is important to teach our children what is truly right and wrong but also to recognize that they will struggle to do it, just as we do.

The law offers us no hope. It only punishes the guilty. That is why some people, who were previously of good character, have been devastated to be sent to prison. The law offers no mercy, but in Jesus Christ, God does show mercy. The worst of people can make a new start. The Holy Spirit can change our hearts. However serious our sins may be, God offers us forgiveness when we receive Jesus as our Saviour. If our nation is truly to recover from its brokenness then God’s grace in Jesus Christ, not just the harsh application of laws, needs to be central.

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