How to make a bad time even worse

“I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13)

The former mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, has been sentenced to federal prison for 10 years. The charges involved kickbacks, bribery, and general crookedness.  If making promises he never followed through on were a crime, the man would never leave the big house.

Observers say Mr. Nagin got a break from Judge Ginger Berrigan. She could easily have given him twice that long–federal guidelines set the minimum as considerably more than 10 years–but she went easy on him.

The only person griping about that is Nagin himself.

Even though found guilty by a jury, and in spite of outright falsehoods in his testimony, the man is certain he was framed and wants to be sure you and I know it.

After his sentencing, Nagin said, “I’ve been targeted, smeared, tarnished and for some reason some of the stances that I took after Katrina didn’t sit well with some very powerful people. So now I’m paying the price for that.”

Denial is not a river in Egypt.

Local newspaper columnist James Gill says “clinging to the delusion that he is innocent may be the only way he could make his situation (even) less tolerable.”

Gill, a native of Great Britain, refers to something the cons in his homeland call “double Richard.”  (He tried to explain the origin of the term, something to do with Richard the Third, but I found it difficult to follow.)  The point is prisoners who keep harping on how the system has mistreated them are doing themselves no favor.  Serving their sentence becomes more painful than it would have been otherwise.

There is much to be said to “owning up” to what one has done.

Mr. Nagin, a practicing Catholic, has a lot of Christian friends.  One of the preachers to vouch for him in pre-sentencing correspondence was Dr. Fred Luter, pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Avenue Baptist Church and most recently the president of our Southern Baptist Convention.  I’ve not asked Fred, but I surmise that all his church-going friends would like to see Mr. Nagin humble himself and confess that what he did was wrong.

Take it like a man.

When King David, the adulterer and murderer, admitted to the Prophet Nathan that “I have sinned against the Lord,” immediately Heaven’s forgiveness apparatus went into full operation.  In the same verse, Nathan says, “The Lord also has taken away your sin.”

Truth be told, people appreciate it when their convicted leaders come clean and quit playing the blame game.  Mr. Nagin joins a host of other Louisiana politicians in donning that striped uniform to bust rocks with sledge hammers.  Or whatever they do in Oakdale Correctional Center.  It’s not like Nagin is the first politician to enter those gates, although he is the first of this city’s mayors to serve time.  (My opinion is that several others skated mighty close to that edge.)

To confess means “to say the same thing,” from the Greek homologeo.  Homo = “same” and logeo = “to speak.”

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

To confess therefore would be to say the same thing about our actions which God says.  And what does He say?  Three terms in Scripture are used for “sin,” and all three fit you and me and C. Ray Nagin: missing the mark, falling short, and iniquity.

Again, people gravitate toward someone who humbles themselves and confesses their wrongdoing.  And in the same way that “God resisteth the proud,” people do also. So, Mr. Nagin should do himself a favor and give his friends a blessing by owning up to what he has done and make the most of the time he will be serving.

Let penance have her perfect work.

After all: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  “There is none righteous, no not one” (3:10).

Amen.

 

 

 

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