by Hal Lindsey
The Al Smith Dinner is a white tie charity event held every year in New York. During presidential election years, it is usually the last event where the two major candidates share the stage before the election. Each candidate speaks, but it’s not campaigning. It’s fun. Each one takes a couple of joking jabs at the other, and each makes a few jokes at his or her own expense.
This year, Donald Trump said, “Just before taking the dais, Hillary accidentally bumped into me and she very civilly said, ‘Pardon me.’” Trump paused, then continued. “And I very politely replied, ‘Let me talk to you about that after I get into office.’”
Now that Donald Trump has become President-elect, the notion of a presidential pardon for the former Secretary of State is being discussed in elite circles across Washington. But don’t expect a pardon from Trump.
She has been accused of national security-related crimes while serving as Secretary of State, and of using her power in office to enrich herself, her husband, and the Clinton Foundation. She denies doing anything illegal.
During campaign events, Trump audiences often chanted, “Lock her up!” The candidate himself implied that a future Trump Justice Department would consider prosecution. Because of this, there has been speculation that, before leaving office, President Obama might give her a blanket pardon for crimes she committed while serving in his Cabinet.
As I write this, she has not applied for a pardon. But Richard Nixon had not applied for a pardon when President Ford granted him one. As that case shows, you don’t have to ask for a pardon, or even to have been indicted, to receive one.
However, there remains one key requirement. To receive a pardon, you must accept the pardon.
Many have speculated that even if President Obama made such an offer to Secretary Clinton, she would refuse. To see why, go back to the case of Richard Nixon. He was extremely reluctant to receive a presidential pardon because he didn’t want to admit that he needed one. Eventually, he changed his mind and let the new president know he would accept a pardon if one were offered.
Most observers believe Gerald Ford lost the 1976 election because of the pardon. In 1983, Robert Kaplan wrote in The Atlantic that the pardon “would haunt [Ford’s] presidency and submerge his campaign two years later.”
For most of the rest of his life, Ford carried something in his wallet that he obviously felt justified his most controversial action. It was a portion of the text from a 1915 Supreme Court case. In Burdick v. United States, the Court ruled a pardon “carries an imputation of guilt; acceptance a confession of it.”
Think about those words. You are offered a pardon because you violated a law. That’s “an imputation of guilt.” And, per the Supreme Court, accepting the pardon amounts to “a confession” of the crime. Hillary Clinton apparently believes she is innocent of all charges, so naturally she refuses to apply for a pardon. She doesn’t think she needs one.
But this issue points to something far bigger than these current news events. For millions around the world, the issue of guilt and innocence is the dividing line between accepting salvation in Christ, or staying in their sins. They refuse Christ’s pardon because they think they don’t need it.
God sees us as clothed in filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and He has a beautiful, pure wedding garment ready to give each of us (Matthew 22:11-13). But millions believe that their filthy rags are “good enough.” So, they refuse His gift of the new and clean garment — the equivalent here of a pardon.
Back in 1833, a man named George Wilson was convicted of robbing the U.S. Mail, and he was sentenced to death. Wilson had well-connected friends who interceded on his behalf with President Andrew Jackson. The president granted Wilson a full pardon, but Wilson refused to receive it.
This case, too, went before the Supreme Court. It ruled, “A pardon is a deed, to the validity of which delivery is essential, and delivery is not complete without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered; and if it is rejected, we have discovered no power in this court to force it upon him.”
The essential words are; “A pardon… is not complete without acceptance.”
Jesus offers His pardon to all who will accept it. We do not work for it. We in no way earn it. We cannot be good enough. We are guilty, and pardon is our only hope. But thanks be to God, He offers it freely.
It’s important to understand the nature of the pardon He offers. No one is above God’s law. Sin is a debt that must be paid, and our sin-debt is so great that we cannot possibly pay it ourselves. But that’s okay because the sin-debt has been paid — and paid in full! — by Jesus Himself.
Jesus bought each of our pardons on the cross. But for the pardon to go into effect, we must accept it. If you have never accepted His pardon, know that it is as close as the air around you. Believe on Jesus Christ. Confess your guilt, and that you need a pardon. Openly acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
Now is the perfect time.