For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. James 2:10
Jeffrey McMullen is a regular patron of AmeriServ Bank in Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania.
That's why, when McMullen handed two of the bank's tellers a note that said he was robbing the bank and wanted them to fork over $1, they thought he was pulling their legs.
Not to be put off by the tellers' unbelief, McMullen left them and approached an employee who was working with new accounts. Once again he said he was holding up the bank, and he wanted them to cough up one single, solitary dollar.
Finally, there was nothing more to be done. The police were called and McMullen was arrested.
Although McMullen's case was interesting now it became bizarre, as it became clear he had held up the bank because he wanted to be tried in a federal court. Apparently, it was his hope he might be sentenced to the minimum security prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania. As of this writing, nobody is sure why McMullen wanted to go to Loretto.
One thing we are sure of is this: the judge didn't take McMullen's bank heist lightly. First, he must take a mental evaluation, and if he wishes to be free before his trial, he has to post a $50,000 bail.
While the story's finish may not be written for some time, I think we are seeing the words of James come true: "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point is accountable for all of it." McMullen may have been a nice bank robber; he may have been a polite, non-threatening bank robber; but he is still a bank robber. And, barring unknown and extenuating circumstances, he may be tried and sentenced like a bank robber.
This, of course, is a lesson for us all. We may be nice sinners -- caring, compassionate and kind sinners -- but we are still sinners. We may only commit little, almost microscopic sins, but we still are sinners. We may have the best of intentions when we sin, but we are still sinners.
And the wages of sin is death. That's what Scripture says. Elsewhere it rephrases the idea when it says the soul which sins shall die. For sinners like you and me there is no psychiatric evaluation, there is no bail. The sentence must be eternal death and damnation.
At least the sentence should have been death and damnation. You see, for believers there are extenuating circumstances, no, not in the commission of the crime; of that, we are guilty. The extenuating circumstance is the crime has already been paid for, and the sentence has been served.
God's Son Jesus Christ came into this world to offer Himself as the Person who would carry our sins and defeat death. Because of what He has done, when the day comes that we appear before the Judge, He will tell us that since Jesus has paid for our sins, we are free to go to our eternal home in heaven.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks that Jesus' blood-bought salvation has been given to me and cancels out my sin and its penalty. May those who think they are okay doing little, minor transgressions see clearly that to be guilty of the law in one part is to break it in all parts. Bring them to repentance and salvation, which comes from Jesus. In His Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries