Over the last couple of weeks, several websites have come under fire for what some critics call extortion. These sites publish mug shots to the web and then charge people to have the photos taken down. The cost to have your mug shot taken down ranges from $178 to $399 per site. With four major sites in operation, getting a picture removed might cost someone as much as $1600.
Supporters of the websites claim that they are providing the public with an essential service by making public information more easily accessible to employers and concerned citizens. Critics argue that the way these particular webpages publish the information unfairly shames those who have been arrested but not convicted. For example, thanks to these sites, a person’s mug shot will often show up in a search engine’s results even if they were never convicted. This might lead a potential employer to wrongly conclude the person has been convicted of a crime.
I for one am glad that God is more gracious to us than we often are to one another. When it comes to our spiritual mug shots, not a one of us can take solace in the fact that our charges have been dropped. We are all guilty as charged, and yet, according to the scriptures, there is not a heavenly version of mugshots.com. Christ Jesus has already paid the price to have our mug shots taken down. No matter how much our sin increased, God’s grace abounded all the more (See Rom 5:20). The only pictures of us in God’s kingdom are the ones a Father keeps of his children.
In a world that almost delights in shaming the guilty, it’s no wonder that some people struggle to understand the biblical assurance that God's love is a love that keeps no record of wrongs. Take some time today to sit with this glorious promise of God in Isaiah 43:25, “I am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
Ponder, too, how might God's love shape our love of neighbor - even the one's with mug shots?