Bible, Teaching, z14
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The blank column

Why did the newspaper have a blank column? Image: Rick Payette | Foter | CC BY-NC-ND

Why did the newspaper have a blank column? Image: Rick Payette | Foter | CC BY-NC-ND

[by Earl Blacklock] Tex Wilson was a newspaper editor in the U.S. midwest, 40 years in the business. At 65, he purchased a local newspaper as his retirement project. He was editor, photographer, and reporter together. Whether there was celebration or sorrow in the town, Tex was there to record the event.

Over the years, the community learned to appreciate Tex and his newspaper. There was one thing, though, that gave them pause. On occasion, the paper would be printed with a column or two totally blank. It seemed at first an oversight, like someone forgot to lay the page out properly. But it happened often enough that speculation as to its meaning began.

The rumor started that the columns represented a story that someone rich and powerful had paid Tex to suppress – each blank column being Tex’s way of holding a threat over the heads of those involved. Tex ignored the rumor as being unworthy of a response, but the stories persisted.

Finally, unable to abide the injustice of the accusation, one man stepped forward and told the real story. Each empty column did, indeed, represent a story that had been suppressed – and one of those columns would have been about him. Approaching forced retirement, with no savings or resources behind him, he had stolen an expensive tool from his employer. And then he took another, and another, selling them in the next town. Finally, his employer became suspicious and laid a trap – one into which he, unwary, walked.

Smelling a story, Tex was there when the Sheriff began his investigation, and he was there when the shamed employee was arrested. He heard him explain the fear for the future that had led to the stealing, and the remorse he felt over it all.

Then Tex met with the business owner and the sheriff, leaving the man alone. Twenty minutes later they returned. The thief was to be given another chance. He would have to pay for the items he had stolen, but he would keep his job, and he would not be charged with the thefts – not even his wife Mollie need know what had happened.

But the second chance came with a warning. “Normally, I’d run the story of your thefts in the paper,” Tex said. “I’m going to run that column anyway, but it will be blank- as a warning to you that if you ever let Mollie down again I’ll publish the story.” He explained that he used blank columns as a kind of monument to demonstrate his faith in the person’s inherent goodness and honesty. Which, from that point, the man demonstrated in both conduct and attitude.

Psalm 130:7 says “With the Lord is unfailing love, and with Him is full redemption.” God is quick to forgive, and our sins are recorded with a blank column. We have reason to rejoice in God’s grace. But mercy is but a first step as we, being freed from judgment, gain the liberty to do what is right before God.

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