My husband was at city hall. He looked around carefully, as he told me later, then slipped the envelope under the desk and into the hand of the official requesting the bribe.
The building we had leased was not up to code, but no one had told us this when we bought the lease. We were young and inexperienced, and we had bought the lease for the entire building in order to be able to keep our own apartment, the best one among eight in this converted mansion.
We had no money to build fire escapes, which the building code required. Paying the bribe seemed the only way out.
Soon circumstances punished this breaking of the law. The house was sold, and the new owner not only did not give us a lease but also took our apartment. We spent the next months in a rooming house with a shared bath.
The reason I am writing about this today is to offer assurance that the punishment that makes us face up to wrongdoing and change our ways is good.
The United States is having to face up to some horrific mistakes. By abusing prisoners of war in Iraq, certainly international as well as national laws have been broken, and human rights trampled on. There is an obvious need for the guilty - all the guilty - to be identified, corrected, and punished. This newspaper and most other publications throughout the world have spoken out against these crimes.
The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, herself a stickler for observing both man-made and moral laws, wrote simply, "Without punishment, sin would multiply" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 11). Though no one enjoys being punished, we can look upon it as a protection from additional and perhaps worse and more regrettable offenses.
While many today do not think of God as being someone who watches our mistakes and then gives out punishments, the Bible makes clear that wrongdoing is punished. There are statements in both the Old and New Testaments that punishment reflects God's love. "Whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth" (Prov. 3:12). And, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Heb. 12:6, 7).
Recognizing a divine law that punishes sins helps us face any legitimate punishment with the assurance that we will be made better for it. Admitting guilt, instead of engaging in self- justification or a coverup, makes us less vulnerable to future temptations. We also are more sharply aware when we have broken a moral or man-made law.
There is no doubt that today many are suffering from the prisoner abuse, especially the prisoners themselves. As they are compensated, the reasons for their being "softened up" exposed, and with punishment meted out to all who perpetrated the acts as well as those who allowed them, we are taking steps to prove that evil has no lasting place. In a sense, whenever anyone faces up to evil and overcomes it, he or she is proving good's supremacy over evil.
The millions of Americans, including those thousands in the military who have had no involvement in the atrocities, can pray the biblical prayer that punishment is governed by justice and mercy and not by revenge and reaction.
Because God is supreme and everlasting, we can expect a firmer resolve on our own part and that of others to obey moral law in every instance. Rightful, appropriate, and merciful punishment makes us face up to mistakes and sins, and improves our lives and our world.
He is the Rock,
his work is perfect:
for all his ways are judgment:
a God of truth
and without iniquity,
just and right is he.