Oliver Twist, Bill Sykes

You may remember the classic Charles Dickens’ story of Oliver Twist –the orphan who remains true and good in spite of being beaten, belittled, and starved in the 1800’s.  When Oliver finally comes into the compassionate care of Mr. Brownlow, ruffian Bill Sykes kidnaps him and forces him to help with a robbery, but Oliver refuses.  When the robbery goes awry, Oliver is the one who gets shot, and it is Mr. Brownlow who comes once again to his rescue and adopts him into his care.

While we’d like to imagine ourselves as Oliver Twist, always choosing to do the right thing despite terrible circumstances, in reality we are a whole lot more like Bill Sykes—all of us.  The Bible tells us,

There is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10B, KJV).

This is not to say we have never been wronged.  I suspect if we interviewed Sykes, we would find his childhood environment full of injustice and unhappiness, too.  But, like Sykes, we are trapped in more than what others have done to us.  We are trapped in the noose of our own sin.  And we need to be adopted, not because we deserve a happy ending, but because we desperately need a new start.

Bill Sykes needed such an adoption, right up to the point when, trying to escape on a rope, he accidentally hanged himself.  Trapped on that roof, the police closing in on him, faced with the truth of his identity as a thief, abuser, kidnapper, and even murderer, he saw no way out except by way of a rope.  He chose to save himself with what ends up killing him.

Sykes is a pretend character Dickens made up.  But Sykes is also very real, for we are all villains, all unlovable, all hopeless.  And we, like Sykes, can find nothing in ourselves to save ourselves, and all escapes we attempt will end only in failure and, sooner or later, death.

But . . . what if . . .

What if Sykes found out he could be adopted?  That he could be fathered?  That, even at his age, with all his unforgivable mistakes, there could be a Father who could forgive him, who would forgive him?  What if he knew about the God of the Bible?

Sykes is a pretend character set in 19th century England, and so far as we can tell he has no understanding of God.  Yet there is nothing pretend about this.  Throughout the world, throughout the centuries, millions of people have gone without knowing God, despite His creation, and for many, despite His Word.  They do not know there is a God who stands ready and willing to adopt them.  They do not know that Jesus will pay for anyone who believes in Him.

They do not know that, even as they throw the very rope that would destroy them, it is not yet too late to have a Father, it is not yet too late to receive forgiveness, it is not yet too late to be redeemed, it is not yet too late to begin again, it is not yet too late to open our hand and say, “Here I am, Jesus.  Will you forgive me?  Will you save me?  Will you be my Father?”

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

(Jesus, quoted in John 3:36, NIV)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

(1 John 3:1, NIV)

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Photo by Pizzodisevo, profile on http://www.flickr.com/photos/globetrotter1937/

See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.


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