The Sin of
Our Bible lesson
this week gives a little preview of how God's court deals with sin
of facing a judge in a courtroom to give account for something that
we have done can be a very frightening thought. All of us can think
of things we have done that we would rather not have to face again,
and certainly not before the God of the universe.
What a blessing
it is to know that we have a Friend in that court. A sentence is
still executed in every case of guilt, but thank God the penalty
has already been paid for anyone who brings his case to that Friend,
our Lawyer and High Priest, Jesus.
Our story illustrates
the kind of love Jesus shows for us by His willingness to pay for
our guilt Himself.
the young money-order clerk, was hard at work when the postmaster
bustled back among the mail distributors.
R.F.D. arrived?" asked the postmaster.
not yet," replied one of the clerks. "He's generally here
by seven. I hope he's not snowed in."
is," Steve called out, "I can see him out there in the
went to help the old rural mail carrier hitch his faithful mare
to the post.
in," the postmaster said. "It's cold. You might as well
keep warm. The old 32 won't be in until after 11 o'clock four hours
late, so you'll have a long wait."
crept slowly by as the old man waited around the workroom.
saw something, or thought he saw something that shocked him. It
seemed that Steve Audaine had slipped a letter from the pile into
his coat pocket. Startled, old R.F.D. watched him intently. Once
again the old man saw the boy slip a letter into his pocket. When
there was a lull in business, old R.F.D. came over and stood by
Steve's wire-enclosed office.
The boy started
a guilty start. "What is it? What do you want?"
much," R.F.D. paused. "Only I forgot the new mail sacks."
apparently aimlessly. "Purty cold, ain't it Steve?"
R.F.D. Why, just think, last year the roses were in bloom in December.
Warmest winter since '91."
that was a warm winter," R.F.D. continued; "flowers bloomed
in February, but they had a freeze in April. I never got to see
that freeze though."
His words were
measured. "I spent that time in prison."
riveted on R.F.D. "In prison! You?"
Sent up in '91. Post Office robbery. I got 15 years."
years in prison? Fifteen years! Why that's a lifetime!"
what I thought. It was more than a lifetime. It was an eternity.
The stone walls, the stripes, the ball and chain, and always the
hopeless knowledge that tomorrow would be exactly like today. They
took away my clothes and gave me a number. I was no longer a man;
I was a criminal, an outcast, a thing to be shunned and pointed
at. I was a thief."
The boy shifted
uneasily. His hand involuntarily went toward the pocket with the
stolen letter. R.F.D. moved toward him and spoke with a fierceness
that Steve had never before heard him use.
my wife torn from my arms, forced into the street to starve. My
baby boy was sick. I had been having a hard winter. I stole a letter
containing twenty dollars. They tore me away from my loved ones,
away to that living death. Then the worst happened. Not a word came
from my wife; not a letter, not a message, absolute silence. More
than a year later I heard that she was d-dead. And I never knew
until after a year. Something died in me that night. For the first
time in my life I hated humanity. I determined to be revenged upon
a society that had so unjustly used me. For three years I lived
with but one purpose, to get free and then to get revenge!"
The old man
was carried away by his emotions. Steve, scarcely less touched,
tried to comfort him by asking, "What happened to your boy?
You didn't lose him, did you?"
was the only thing that saved me. I heard a traveling evangelist
preach on our duty to the living. Even the lowest outcast owes a
duty to his fellow man, a duty to his offspring. I thought of my
boy out there in the big world all alone I determined to make a
new start. I determined to live for my boy."
anything, lad, to answer 'yes,' but I can't. I've never seen my
boy since the day they tore me away from his little arms. But I
will find him. God is good. I have suffered more than my share.
I have sinned, but I have paid the penalty. Someday I'll find my
boy. But, oh, lad, for fifteen years I paid the penalty of my one
thoughtless sin. I robbed the government mail. I stole $20 and that
act of sin cost me my wife, my only child, and fifteen years of
was interrupted by the announcement that the delayed train had arrived.
Old R.F.D. hurried away to sort the mail.
Two weeks later
Kate, one of the stamp clerks, called R.F.D. over to her desk.
a letter," she said, "for Mr. Ira Troutman, Esquire."
clerk didn't know who Mr. Troutman was."
reckon not. So many call me 'Old R.F.D.' that no one around here
knows 'cept you and the postmaster. 'Taint necessary. Old R.F.D.
is a pretty good name."
The old man
came alive as he read the letter. "Good news, Kate, I've just
been awarded a homestead, a little farm, way up in Montany. I'll
kinda hate to leave my friends here in the post office, but I've
always wanted a home. When I find my boy, I'll have a home ready
think you'll ever find him?" Kate responded.
Kate, I sure do. The Lord is good. I trust Him. Someday, I'll find
his name, R.F.?"
mine, Ira Troutman, Jr."
As the old man
started out with his load, a clerk brought him word that the postmaster
wanted to see him in the inspector's office.
The theft had
An hour later
all of the post office employees stood together before the inspector
as he questioned them one by one.
Peavy, has any worker here borrowed money from you?"
at Steve's shifting gaze before answering. "Yes, sir."
paid it back?" 8"Two weeks ago he paid me $20 of it. Last
thank you. Now, Miss Kate Kenyon."
Kate came forward.
worker here borrowed money from you?" The inspector watched
her intently as he spoke.
paled. "No, sir," she said weakly.
some money has been robbed from a letter. One hundred dollars. Do
you know anything about it?"
The reply was
almost inaudible. "No, sir. I don't think so."
know. Answer me. Have you any idea who took that money?"
away and staggered. The postmaster assisted her to a chair. Old
R.F.D. hurried to get her a glass of water but she refused it.
turned to Steve Audaine.
Do you know anything about this case?"
and mumbled. "No, sir, I don't."
Like a thunderclap
the voice of the inspector broke the silence;
Steve Audaine. You stole that hundred dollars."
I I I"
Mrs. Jeffs mail that letter. You heard her tell the postmaster it
had money in it. You were in debt up to your neck. You took the
letter and stole that hundred dollars."
scarcely speak. His lips moved, but no sound would come.
continued with the tenacity of a bulldog. "Where did you get
the money to pay your bills all over town? We've got your number,
understand? We've got you."
his voice. "No, it's all a mistake. I never took the money."
man, I'm sorry for you," the inspector spoke more gently. "You've
had a hard life. Now, the thing to do is to come clean and confess.
Let me see, you came from the orphanage didn't you?"
even know who your mother and father are?"
even know your real name do you?"
Steve looked him in the eye. "My real name is Ira Troutman."
The glass of water crashed from old R.F.D.'s hand to the floor.
Every eye turned to him. He trembled, then with a mighty effort
he steadied himself and crossed the room.
Inspector! I'm the man you want. I'm a thief. My record's against
me. I spent fifteen years in prison for stealing from the post office.
Take me away, Inspector."
led him out.
The next day
Kate visited old R.F.D. in the county jail.
I am so sorry. Why did you take the burden of this crime on yourself?
You never stole that money. You are assuming guilt that's not yours.
You are giving up your liberty, your very life, for a guilty man."
faltered only slightly as he answered, "What greater love hath
a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend?"
Kate nodded, "you are doing this for him for your son Steve
You know my secret! Ah, you recognized his name same as I did!"
R.F.D. looked into her eyes. "Yes, I'm doing it for my son.
Just think, Steve Audaine is my little boy! But please don't tell
him. You won't let him know that his father was that I am his father,
will you? No, I just couldn't let my boy know that his father was
entered the room just then. He paused as he saw Kate.
to speak to R.F.D., Kate, I have something to say to him."
The tone of
his voice and the look in his eye told Kate the purpose of his visit.
Steve," she replied, "and I honor you for it. All may
be well yet. I am going to appeal to Mrs. Jeffs. I'm sure the inspector
will not press the issue if she drops the charges."
away leaving father and son face to face.
hand, Steve struggled to master the emotion in his voice.
you say it?" he asked as he looked into the old man's eyes.
there, boy. Now, please leave this old man alone. I'd rather not
talk about it." Gently he put the boy's hands away from him.
go away," Steve sobbed. "I took the money and you are
acting as if you did. All through the night one word rang through
my ears. 'Coward, coward.' I was careless, I was in debt, now I'm
a thief. I was weak and foolish, but now I'm a man. Do you think
I could allow you to go to prison for my crime? Do you think I could
live with the word 'Coward' ringing in my ears forever? I am going
to the inspector to tell him the truth."
He started for
the door but R.F.D. stopped him.
I'm an old man. You why you've got your whole life before you. Prison
would ruin you forever. Let me go in your place. Please, lad, please!"
Why are you doing this for me?"
matter, just live like I would want my own boy to do. When you're
tempted to do wrong, just think of me out here in prison paying
for you and praying for you, loving you and trusting you."
was to much for R.F.D. "Steve," he said quietly, "I
am your father."
Steve sank back
in astonishment. "Father!"
can't give you much, but I can give you one thing, my liberty. Care
for it. Use it well."
Steve rose to
his feet with new courage. With a husky voice he answered, "Never
could I allow you to go back to that prison. I know my duty. I'm
going to do it."
Not far away,
Kate was pleading with Mrs. Jeffs for R.F.D.'s liberty. "Mrs.
Jeffs," she said. "You don't really believe he stole that
money, do you?"
Mrs. Jeffs hesitated.
"I don't want to think so, he's such a nice old man."
goes to prison," Kate continued, "he'll never survive.
See, Mrs. Jeffs, here is one hundred dollars, two fifty-dollar bills,
just like you lost in your letter. You wouldn't send him to prison
if you got your money back would you?"
Mrs. Jeffs hesitated
you didn't really want to see him imprisoned. Look, here is a taxi.
Come with me to the jail to see the inspector. Tell him you won't
press charges. The life of that old man is in your hands."
helped Mrs. Jeffs into her coat and hurried her away to the jail.
The determination in Mrs. Jeffs eye revealed the excitement she
now felt as she faced the inspector. "Mr. Cochran, sir, you
have old R.F.D. arrested in there for stealing my hundred dollars,
I want you to let him go. He didn't steal my money. The idea of
your arresting the old man!" Hurriedly she went on, showing
him the money that had been returned to her. Somehow she convinced
him that the thing to do was to drop the charge and set him free.
An hour later,
Kate stood radiantly happy as she watched father and son stand reunited,
rejoicing in their freedom. "Well," R.F.D. said, "the
little homestead is waiting for us in Montany son, we can start
a new life there together."
Saviour, like old R.F.D., was willing to take the court sentence
for our guilt. Unlike this story, however, the charges were not
dropped. He had to pay the whole penalty.
it would be for your name or mine to be called up in judgment and
for Jesus to have to say, "I'm sorry, I can't take your case.
You never accepted my offer to take your case. You never indicated
you wanted help, you never indicated you wanted to change. I never
We pray that
as you study this most important court scene in all of our earth's
history, that you will make sure that Jesus, our Friend in court,
has your case in His hands.
From your friends
at Steps to Life