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home : religion : inspirational reflections July 19, 2018

11/12/2017 12:11:00 AM
Us Sinners
Charles R. Swindoll — 'Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.'
Charles R. Swindoll — 'Life is 
10% what happens to you and 
90% how you react to it.'

Rev. Susan Smith Walker
Emanuel Reformed Church

In celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation we cannot avoid the subject of sin, even if it is at odds with the contemporary emphasis on having good self-esteem. As hard as it is, we must get honest with ourselves about sin.

1 John 1:8-10
8 If we claim to be without sin,(A) we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.(B) 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins(C) and purify us from all unrighteousness.(D) 10 If we claim we have not sinned,(E) we make him out to be a liar(F) and his word is not in us.(G)

We all sin. The range of our sins vary with how we were raised, our circumstances, and the people who have influenced us. Humanity is broken, this way but we don’t have to be robbers or murderers to be sinners. We can’t point fingers at sinners as if we are different. There but for the grace of God goes any of us.

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When I got married in 1981 I had a hyphenated last name “Currie-Smith” because “Smith” was too ordinary. After I came to Christ at age 37, my pastor convinced me to embrace my husband’s name for my family’s sake, and I became Susan Smith. I was a new creature in Christ, and I loved my new name.

In 1995 a woman named Susan Smith drowned her two toddlers in S.C. She was convicted of murdering them by rolling her car into a lake strapped in their car seats. She got life in prison.

I had to answer for what she did because we shared the same name. People would draw back when they heard my name. “That monster!” they would say, and proceed to pour out their rage on me. My children were teased “Watch out! Their mom is Susan Smith! Don’t get in the back seat of her car!” I couldn’t order a pizza on the phone without being blasted for her horrific act. I hated her for ruining my name and putting me in this position.

I was so fed up until one day the Lord revealed that I could use this as an opportunity to talk about the brokenness of humanity, and help put her sin in perspective. Her father committed suicide when she was six years old. She did not have a stable home life. She attempted suicide twice in her teen years. It was disclosed in her trial that she was molested in her teens by her stepfather, who was a community leader and a member of the Christian Coalition. He cried on the witness stand saying, "Had I known what the result of my sin would be, I would have mustered the strength to behave according to my responsibility."

Today I have remarried and my name is Susan Walker, but I carry this lesson with me. Susan Smith is a sinner, but so was her stepfather and the other people who let her down in her life. Sin often has deep roots in families. She is still in prison, and only God knows the whole story.

People must be held accountable for sin, but we can still be compassionate to the sinner. Susan Smith can confess her sin and pray for forgiveness just as we can. One of Martin Luther’s main points was that we can seek the forgiveness of God directly through Christ. The Reformation spread the belief that the foot of the cross is level ground for all of us sinners.

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