The Andy Griffith Show will always hold an endearing spot in my heart, even if I don’t find it quite as humorous as I once did. You see, my dad’s family has strong ties to the real-life locations that comprise the fictional town of Mayberry. My dad and his dad hail from Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, which is just a stone’s thrown away from Mount Airy which is prominently featured throughout the show’s run. I grew up watching Mayberry’s sheriff deal with some of the most mundane dilemmas that afflicted his small, simple town. The shenanigans Andy and Barney and the lot of them continually got themselves into made for a show that not only provides delightful laughs but also reminds me of a simpler time. The nostalgia-laden Andy Griffith Show makes me pine for days filled with front-porch-sitting and sweet-tea-sipping. But who knew that Andy Griffith could teach us about imputed righteousness, too?
In an essay for Mockingbird entitled, “That’s All There Is to It: When Grace Came to Mayberry,” Luke Roland articulates winsomely “the gospel of imputation according to Andy Griffith.” He writes:
We recently finished up the second season and in the final episode, grace and law were on full display in a profound and touching way. For those not familiar with the show, Andy Taylor is the town sheriff and his best friend Barney Fife the deputy. In this particular episode we are treated to the side character of Otis Campbell, the town drunk.
We find out that Otis has been mailing letters to his family on the sheriff’s letterhead giving his family the impression that he in fact works there. The letter Barney finds was sent by Otis’s brother and sister-in-law, informing him that they’re coming to visit and expect to see a respectable lawman and not a town drunk! . . . Otis tells Barney and Andy that he has always been the black sheep of the family, and “it felt good changing colors.” Andy then comes up with a unique plan. He’s going to give Otis a job.
Barney: Are you kidding. You mean you are you actually going to give Otis a job here?
Andy: Well it’s just temporary.
Barney: Well, what kind of a job can you give to Otis? Well, he’s irresponsible, he’s careless, he’s unreliable.
Andy: I’ll make him a deputy.
Barney: Deputy?! You can’t do that Andy, you just can’t do that.
Andy: A sheriff has a right to deputize anybody in the case of an emergency, and for Otis I’d say this is an emergency.
Imputed righteousness! But it gets better. Barney just can’t fathom how a town drunk could so easily be made a deputy. (At times, I can’t understand how in the world Jesus can make someone like me righteous!) Barney is utterly scandalized . . . In comes Otis clean shaven with his new uniform on, and much to Barney’s chagrin, Andy proceeds to swear him in.
Andy: Now raise your right hand. Do you, Otis Campbell solemnly swear to uphold the duties of your office and conduct yourself in a manner that will do credit to the Mayberry sheriff’s office?
Otis: I do.
Andy: Good. That’s all there is to it. Now you’re a full fledged deputy and you can honestly tell your family that you work here.
Otis: Gosh I’ve been coming here a long time Andy, but I never figured there was a chance for advancement. I sure appreciate what you’re doing.
Andy has given Otis a new uniform — one that signifies scrupulous law-abiding — and calls him something he in fact is not. Likewise, Jesus clothes us in righteousness itself, and calls us something we are not. Inwardly, we know we do not deserve this treatment, but in the mind of God we are reckoned righteous. And to Andy, that’s all there is to it.
Does this sound familiar to you? It sure does to me . . . we are made righteous — and called thus — by the virtue of another . . . He clothes us in righteousness. Friends, I don’t care where you fall short or what the Barneys of this world insinuate — on account of Christ, you are in fact righteous. That’s all there is to it.