Free At Last: Expungement

Free at last! Jesus frees us from the guilt and shame of our sin, but only the state can free us of a criminal conviction. The process is called expungement, and I had the privilege yesterday of seeing a friend’s conviction expunged. Like so many of us, she “did something stupid” long ago, and she has had this conviction tied to her identity ever since. Every job application, applications for membership in organizations, even an application to minister to children at church, brings the dreaded question, “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense?” Now my friend can honestly answer, “No.”

I love the concept of expungement because it parallels what Jesus does for us when we confess our sins to Him. Our criminal act offends the state; our sin offends God. The state expunges; God forgives. The criminal conviction is still a part of a person’s official record, but it is not visible; it cannot be used against the person. Likewise, sin is still a part of our past, but God removes it “as far as the east is from the west” and does not count it against us. (Psalm 103).

Neither process is easy. The steps involved in applying to expunge a conviction are many, including sending applications to the state police, attorney general, and prosecutor, being fingerprinted, and appearing before the sentencing judge. Confessing our sin may also be a process as we move beyond our own defensiveness and pride and admit we have failed.

So much in life weighs us down. Expungement is one of the few gifts that lightens our load. I’m happy for my friend, and happy that I could be part of the process of helping her attain a small measure of freedom.