Janet Denison

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Is John Edward's affair a sin or a crime?

Former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. John Edwards follows his daughter, Cate, and father, Wallace Edwards, out of a federal courthouse during his trial in Greensboro, N.C., Monday, May 14, 2012 (Credit: AP/Bob Leverone)Sin or crime?  In God's eyes, both.  John Edward's defense lawyer was recently quoted in USA Today as saying Edwards, "committed many sins, but no crime."  If those defense lawyers can prove that, John Edwards doesn't have to worry about spending thirty years in prison - but he will still have plenty to worry about.  Edwards is accused of spending almost one million dollars of campaign money to hide the fact that he fathered a baby with Rielle Hunter.  Even if the court decides that he was allowed to spend that money, what does he tell Quinn when she grows up, googles, and discovers that her dad didn't want the world to know about her?  It won't matter to Quinn whether the affair was a sin or a crime, it will still hurt the same.  John Edwards' daughter Cate has been with him in court.  A recent article described her tearful exit from the courtroom after hearing testimony about her mom.   Elizabeth Edwards' was publicly confronting her husband about his affair and displayed her post-surgery chest shouting, "You don't see me anymore."  Elizabeth didn't care in that moment if the affair was a crime or a sin--it was devastating pain, either way.  Is John Edwards going to feel vindicated if a court of law decides not to find him guilty?  If he does, he has a great deal more to worry about than he realizes.   On the other hand, if he is found guilty by the court, he still has a promise for vindication.  So do you.
A lot of us have been comforted by 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  All of us have sinned (Romans 3:23) and aren't we glad when it isn't described on the world-wide web.  I'm not sure why God doesn't rank big sins and little sins - but he doesn't.  He defines sin as whatever we do that separates us from him.  And that, by the way, is why he hates our sin.  There is nothing God wants more than for you to be in a strong, loving relationship with him.  That is why the Bible describes him as a jealous God.

John Edwards' sin isn't new.  We all know the infamous story of King David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11).  I don't know anyone who considers "Bathsheba" when naming their baby girl!  But we still name our sons "David."  Personally, I think we may have missed the point!  God redeemed them both - but do we forgive what God does? 

Was John Edwards' affair a sin or a crime?  God doesn't differentiate.  John Edwards' affair broke his relationship with his wife, his children, his friends and his country.  No matter what the courts decide, that will remain true.  The most damaging consequence is that it broke his relationship with God.  People don't forgive like God does, so Edwards will probably live the rest of his life on earth, affected by his damaged relationships.  God does forgive, forget and restore.  John Edwards can live the rest of his life on earth, free or in prison, with the knowledge that even his most scarlet sins can be white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) in the eyes of God.  The courts decision doesn't matter in the long run . . . I hope and pray that he will plead with God for his forgiveness and vindication. 

I'm not suggesting that you should name your daughter Bathsheba, but realize you could.  If the subject of the John Edward's trial comes up today, consider it a chance to speak about God's forgiveness.  I hope Quinn studies 2 Samuel 11 someday.  David and Bathsheba had a son.  We call him King Solomon.  Is it a sin or a crime?  That really isn't what should matter most.



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