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The Christian “Get Out of Jail Free” Card

blood of jesus

If you have ever played Monopoly, you know how important it is to have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. You never know when you might need to play the card.

Every Evangelical, regardless of the sect, gets one “Get out of Jail Free” card. This card is also known as the blood of Jesus.

According to Evangelical dogma, the blood of Jesus cleanses sinners from their sin. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22-28:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Ephesians 1:7 says, In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

Through the blood of Jesus, sin is atoned for; through the blood of Jesus is the forgiveness of sin. Baptist readers of this blog have sung the old church standard, Nothing But The Blood, many times:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain sung after every verse

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Exactly what does the blood of Jesus do for the sinner? It covers, erases, does away with their sin. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Through the blood of Jesus, a sinner becomes a new creature (creation), old things pass away and everything becomes new. In an instant, a sinner — no matter how wicked and vile he is — can have his slate wiped clean.

God, through the blood of God (Jesus), forgives and forgets. Perverts, wife beaters, tax cheats, thieves, murderers, Josh Duggar, David Hyles, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, and Donald Trump are quite happy to find out that the blood of Jesus provides for them a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. The blood-cleansed sinner can shout from the mountaintop, Free, Free, Free at Last! In a moment, all their past transgressions are “under the blood.” Psalm 103:12 says: As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

A popular Christian song, My Sins are Gone, pretty well sums up the Evangelical’s feeling about the blood of Jesus and his sin:

You ask me why I’m happy so I’ll just tell you why
Because my sins are gone
And when I meet the scoffers who ask me where they are
I say my sins are gone

They’re underneath the Blood on the cross of Calvary
As far removed As darkness is from dawn
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness that’s good enough for me
Praise God! my sins are gone

When blood-bought Evangelicals are confronted by those they have hurt in the past, they often say, “that’s under the blood.” This means, “sorry, God has forgiven me for that sin and I am not accountable for it any longer. PRAISE JESUS!!”

My mother was sexually molested as a child by her father. He later became a washed-in-the-blood fundamentalist Christian who never missed an opportunity to remind everyone that Jesus could forgive them of every sin! My mother confronted her father over what he had done to her as a child. His reply?

That’s under the blood, God has forgiven me!

My mother, in a fit of rage, let him know that SHE hadn’t forgiven him. But that didn’t matter. As long as the blood of Jesus had paid her father’s sin debt, no further confession or restitution was required. He went on to live the Christian good life, never one time saying to my mother, I am sorry. My grandfather was a mean son-of-a-bitch before he became a Christian, and he was a mean son-of-a-bitch after his sin debt had been cleansed by Jesus’ blood. (Please see John.)

What about sins committed AFTER a person becomes a Christian? Each sect has its own plan for renewing the “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Catholics use the confessional and transubstantiation to free themselves of responsibility for their sins. The blood of Jesus covers everything, including molesting children. Baptists, on the other hand, use daily prayer and the church altar as places where believers can appropriate the blood of Jesus and get a fresh start. The Bible says in First John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

No matter what the Baptist has done, absolution is only a prayer away. Do the same sin tomorrow? No problem, just pray and start over again. I know some of the more pious among the Baptists will object and say that when Christians confess their sin, they are to forsake it, but personal experience and observing Baptists for many years tells me that do the same sin tomorrow, no problem, just pray and start over again is typically how Baptists handle their “sin problem.”

As an atheist, I don’t have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. When I do bad — I reject the Christian concept of sin — things there is no God to excuse me, so I must own my actions and, if possible, make things right. Granted, my “sin” list is much smaller now. Once I was set free from the shackles of God’s law, Biblical law, or whatever-the-hell-the-pastor-says-is-sin law, I was finally able to begin freely living my life. No blood atonement needed. No catchy songs about the blood covering all my transgressions.

Every day, I make decisions that affect how I live my life, and every day I have the choice to live a decent, honorable life. Every day, I come up short, and it is in those moments that I must say, I am sorry, and, if needed, make restitution.

For my mother, one I’m sorry would have covered a multitude of sins. Too bad Jesus and His blood got in the way.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    Her father might have been ‘washed in the blood,’ but his wasn’t at all repentant, which I rather thought was a condition of the washing. So, he was a prideful as ever, because if he’d accepted the horror of what he’d done and truly repented, he would have fallen in tears at her feet and begged her forgiveness. Imagine what might have been if he’d done that.

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    And really, how hard would it have been for your grandfather to care for your mom’s pain? Although it sounds like he wasn’t even slightly interested in her well being.

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    How convenient for your grandfather to have found a religion that exonerated him from the responsibility for owning up to his heinous abuse. Notice he didn’t jump into the kinder, gentler end of the Christian swimming pool….

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    That’s terrible the way your mother was treated by her father. It’s all too common, though, that parents who abuse their children remain in denial about that abuse. I don’t know if it’s a psychological defense mechanism or if it’s gaslighting, or maybe a bit of both, but it’s nauseating.

    It’s interesting how out-of-touch the IFB take on salvation is from historical Christianity. In the early years of the Church (circa 3rd-4th century AD), a major sin after Baptism (such as adultery or apostasizing during persecution) would earn you a lengthy penance that would take years to work off; stand outside the Church for a few years during liturgy, stand inside the Church for a few years (but in the back, and no Eucharist), etc until finally you could be re-admitted to full Communion. This was the historical predecessor of the sacrament of Penance/Confession in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions, except that back then you had to do your penance BEFORE you got absolved, and obviously the penances were a lot stricter. As a Roman Catholic myself, I should like to see some harsh penance brought back for sins like child molestation, But I digress.

    In Early Christian tradition (which is a legitimate part of the deposit of faith for Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, and is ignored at our peril), it is noteworthy that right conduct is necessary for our salvation–it’s not just evidence of salvation. Thus, there’s no cheap grace. Even though Baptism does wipe away all actual sins and original sins, we still must set right any grave wrongs that we’ve done in the past. In oration 40, his homily on Baptism, St. Gregory Nazianzen observes:

    “Let the laver be not for your body only, but also for the image of God in you; not merely a washing away of sins in you, but also a correction of your temper; let it not only wash away the old filth, but let it purify the fountainhead. Let it not only move you to honourable acquisition, but let it teach you also honourably to lose possession; or, which is more easy, to make restitution of what you have wrongfully acquired. For what profit is it that your sin should have been forgiven you, but the loss which you have inflicted should not be repaired to him whom you have injured? Two sins are on your conscience, the one that you made a dishonest gain, the other that you retained the gains; you received forgiveness for the one, but in respect of the other you are still in sin, for you have still possession of what belongs to another; and your sin has not been put to an end, but only divided by the time which has elapsed.”

    The Catholic Church teaches this to this day. The current Catechism of the Catholic Church states that stolen goods must be returned, etc–which is a simple matter of justice–and indeed we don’t need the Catechism to tell us this, as it’s just part of the natural law; it’s what decent human beings do. It’s harder with temporal wrongs that never be truly “set right” while on this earth, such as child abuse. But I would think that true sorrow for such a terrible deed would compel one to humbly acknowledge that terrible wrong before the victim (and turn oneself into the police). In the Catholic tradition, at least, the blood of Christ is not treated like a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Indeed, even when the eternal consequences of sin are forgiven in the confessional, the temporal consequences remain (i.e. purgatory).

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      Hey Dispennett, Get Fuzzy comes out with new strips every Sunday, and reruns old strips the other days. I’m a fan so I’ve kept up.

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Bruce Gerencser