Summary: “The writer imagines committing a fictional sin, stealing money off his brother. In repentant mood, he tries to puzzle out how Jesus’ death on the cross “for our sins” can possibly relate to his misguided act.”
My brother Andy was staying with us for a few days. One afternoon when he was out I went into his room to get something and noticed he had left his wallet on the bedside table. I had just been laid off at work and we were not finding it easy to make ends meet at home. Just the previous day a friend had told me of a dead cert in the 3.30 at Chepstow. When it came to horses I had rarely known him to be wrong.
So guess what I did. I took a twenty from Andy’s wallet to put on this horse. At 5 to 1 it would net me one hundred pounds which would enable me to replace the twenty before Andy even realised I had taken it, and there would be a welcome boost to the house-keeping kitty. It wasn’t really theft, more like borrowing. ‘A wise investment’ you might say.
When the horse fell at the first fence, I got this knotted feeling in my stomach. When I got back from the betting shop the shit hit the fan. My brother was back early and had noticed the note was missing straight away, and he had gone straight to my wife about it. When I apologised and explained what I had done it just seemed to make matters worse. My wife looked at me as if I were something unpleasant on the sole of her shoe. I went on the defensive; harsh words were spoken and the upshot was Andy decided to end his stay with us early. My wife tried to reimburse him for the stolen money but he refused to take it.
Feeling miserable and confused and compromised by my own stupidity, I sought solitude in the garden where I decided to mow the front lawn while my wife calmed down. Not easy, because I knew the rest of the family would soon get to hear all about my ‘little flutter’, and they could be a pretty merciless lot.
A man I didn’t know appeared at the front garden gate. He held a magazine, and he said he would like to share his message with me. I turned off the mower and asked him to explain. In essence he told me a story of a man who died 2000 years ago in the Middle East. He was a good man and according to my visitor he ‘died for my sins’. How could one man’s death so far away and so long ago possibly be relevant to me. I already felt remorse for my action and regret over the consequences which were still unfolding. He said God would forgive me and Jesus would help me not to sin again if I accepted him as my ‘saviour’. In my case there wouldn’t be any repetition, I had learned my lesson without any ‘saviour’ to help me, and it wasn’t this preacher-man’s god whose forgiveness I wanted, it was my brother’s. He was central to my plight and I had alienated him. He was the one the man should be speaking to: the victim not the sinner. I didn’t have anyone to forgive.
Did I miss something somewhere? It seemed to me the preacher was just wasting my time. His message bore no relation to my ‘sin’ or ‘gamble’ as I prefer to think of it. Did he get his own message wrong? I dismissed him from my mind and went back to mowing the lawn.
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