Everyone Is Guilty, but Anyone Can Be Pardoned

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 09/13/2022

Someone recently posed a question to me that challenged the fairness of Christianity. Here’s what they asked:

If a man kills another man, and neither of them put their trust in Jesus, how is it just that they both end up in Hell? It makes sense that the murderer is punished. The victim, however, was unjustly killed. Why should he be punished, as well?

It’s a fair question. The answer gets right to the heart of the gospel.

The reason the scenario sounds unjust is that the question wrongly presumes that only the murderer is guilty, while the victim is entirely innocent. It’s true that the murderer is guilty. He committed a heinous crime. It makes sense that he’s punished.

But the victim, though innocent of murder, is still guilty of other crimes against God. That’s why he’s also punished.

This question reminds me of a story from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. In the book, Big Ghost is an employer whose employee, Len, committed murder. In the afterlife, Big Ghost is in Hell but goes to visit Heaven. He’s shocked when he sees Len—the former murderer—there. Big Ghost argues that it’s unfair that a murderer is in Heaven while he, who lived a “good” life, is in Hell. They should be in opposite places, Big Ghost reasons.

The point is that everyone is guilty of committing crimes against God, whether we perceive them as minor (e.g., lying, envy, gossip) or major (e.g., murder, rape, abuse). God’s standard demands perfection. That’s why everyone falls short. That’s why everyone deserves Hell. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that while everyone is guilty, anyone can be pardoned. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Even murderers are offered the grace of God. The only factor that determines your final destination is whether you accept God’s pardon for your crimes or not.

Instead of wondering why a murderer can make it to Heaven, we should be grateful God offers us grace. Otherwise, no one would be pardoned. Thankfully, God loves us and he’s made a way out, no matter what we’ve done.