A king, visiting a prison, began to interview the inmates. Prisoner after prisoner insisted that he was innocent, that he had been framed, that a terrible injustice had been done.
The King then asked the last prisoner, “And are you, too, as innocent as a lamb?”
“No, your majesty. I am a thief. I was caught, fairly tried and sentenced.”
“You admit you’re a thief?” asked the king in surprise.
“Yes, your majesty.”
“The king said, “Throw this crook out of here!”
The thief was promptly ejected.
The prisoners raised a fearful clamor. “You majesty, how can you do such a thing? How can you free a confessed criminal while we . . . .”
“I was afraid,” the king smiled, “that that wicked scoundrel would corrupt all you innocent souls!”
That Yiddish tale is good for those of us walking the last mile of Lent. The gift of forgiveness is beautiful, perhaps the most sublime gift of God. Yet it can only be received by self-confessed sinners. Those who say, “I am a thief.” That is the genius of Bill W’s club, isn’t it. You sit in the circle and you simply introduce yourself as who you are. “My name is Fred, and I’m and alcoholic.” All of us who have managed to keep our crap together and stay out of church basements where we have to sit down and say such hideously déclassé things are not really at an advantage, are we?