SOMETIMES, HAVING been at this Christian thing for some considerable time now, I get to thinking that Jesus must be pretty pleased to have me on His team. Like I’m a first-pick player. After all, I have the big “Thou Shalt Nots” down pretty much—at least outwardly.
And then something happens to remind me that God doesn’t grade on a curve. That His absolute standard for selection is way beyond even my best efforts. You might call this moment of humbling realization a revelation. You might call it an epiphany. Okay, you might also call it a traffic stop.
On a recent Saturday morning, grandson Brady and I were heading out on an outing when I pulled off the main road into a side street and then into a small strip center to check my directions. Steering back out onto the main route, I looked carefully to be sure there was no traffic and turned right. At the stop light a couple of hundred yards down, a cop pulled up alongside and flagged me off to the side.
Had I seen the stop sign when I came out of the strip center?
At the junction with the street which had no traffic in it? No, actually.
As I waited for him to write me my $160 ticket I tried to look respectful while I stewed internally.
But there was nothing coming. It’s a quiet Saturday morning, for goodness’ sake.
Shouldn’t he be out looking for real criminals, somewhere?
I bet he’s just trying to get his quota for the day.
Driving away, I was reminded of a recent conversation with a friend. He’d observed that while our God is one who balances justice and mercy on His scales, we tend to want the former for others and the latter for ourselves.
The fact was, I had broken the law—regardless of how much I tried to rationalize it to myself. No matter what the moral gymnastics exercised to explain things away, I’d transgressed. I didn’t get to decide on the rules; I just had to comply or face the consequences.
Duly chagrined, my response made me wonder how easily we can have a similar attitude to other areas of life where we cross the line.
Sure I may have gotten a little snippy. But they were rude.
It was only a glance. I didn’t really look.
Someone else will probably stop and help. I’m pressed for time.
Jesus was pretty clear that we simply can’t make the selection grade His kingdom requires. “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” He said (Matthew 5:20).
Only when we come to recognize that His absolute standard of holiness is always going to be out of reach will we ever come to the place where we can accept that we need a Savior. The good news is that Jesus doesn’t excuse our sin, He forgives it.
When we stop trying to justify ourselves by downplaying our actions, we can discover the joy and freedom of being justified by someone else’s actions—when Jesus went to the cross to cancel out all our wrongdoing.
When the cop pulled me over, he pulled me up short.
Photo credit: Fey Ilyas via Foter.com/CC BY-SA