I was seven, and it was the end of another hot August day. With daylight fading behind the large maple trees of my neighborhood, I heard my mother’s call to come home. Summer was coming to an end and the start of school was near, so I was determined to drain every drop out of my summer vacation. As I cut through several backyards on my way home, I ran past a neighbor’s clothesline. It was so close, I could almost touch it, and then the thought hit me, “Tarzan!”
My running turned on a tight arc as I headed back for my last adventure of the day. The thought did cross my mind about the impropriety of my intended action, but it was quickly pushed aside by the fact that I had never seen one stitch of clothing hanging from this line. “Therefore,” I reasoned, “I would be putting it to good use.”
With arms stretched high, I hit the clothesline at full speed. I was flying. Swinging back and forth, kicking my legs upward, I gained more and more altitude. And then it happened, a face appeared in the window; it was the old man who owned the clothesline. Simultaneously, the line pulled loose from the tree into which it was anchored, and I was momentarily suspended in mid-air. In my slow-motion fall to the ground, it occurred to me that my neighbor didn’t look very happy.
I bounced off the ground once and came up running. As I fled home, I suddenly recalled a promise my dad had made to me. “Brad,” he had said, “if you do something wrong, and you come to me first, before I find out some other way, I will go easier on you.” I burst through our front door, and before my dad could lower the newspaper he was reading, my clothesline confession came gushing out.
He didn’t look all that that surprised (probably the reason my older brother and sister have no memory of this promise being given to them). He rose from his chair and told me to come with him as he walked out our front door on the way to his service truck. He calmly opened one of the large toolboxes, grabbed some tools, and then said, “Let’s go see if we can fix it.”
As we arrived at the scene of the crime, the clothesline was lying on the grass with my neighbor standing next to it (he didn’t look any happier than the last time I saw him). My dad engaged him in conversation as he set about anchoring and tightening the clothesline better than it was before (and it was now out of my reach). As he wrapped up his pleasantries, he bid the old man a good evening to which he snapped back, “Aren’t you going to punish the boy.” My father, standing by my side with his arm around my shoulder, said, “I promised my son that if he did wrong and told me, I would go easier on him. I have fixed your clothesline better than it was before. The matter is settled. Good evening.” It was a quiet walk back to the house but the strong hand on my shoulder preached a sermon of redemption to me.
The good news for us sinners is that we have a friend who stands with us – a friend who even stood-in for us at the cross by taking our punishment upon himself so that we are graciously and completely forgiven. He is a friend who has fixed our broken relationship with God and freed us from our due judgment. He is a friend who will stand with us through thick and thin. We don’t deserve his friendship, but he nonetheless embraces us with it, along with his understanding and his promise that he will never leave us nor forsake us. He is the friend of sinners and the cross shows us his trustworthiness. To God be the glory!
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly... God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)