“LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart….” Psalm 15:1–2
As we were driving home from vacation, I was confronted with my own waywardness. Somewhere on Interstate 81 it began: “Dad, you’re breaking the law.” A sweet 6 year-old boy sitting behind me recognized the vehicle speed on our GPS had turned red – I was driving above the posted speed limit. My behavior, I justified, was in accordance with societal norms and everyone knows that the police won’t stop you on the highway unless you are travelling more than 10 miles over the posted limits. But, yes, son, I was breaking the law.
I am a lawbreaker. I am guilty of violating the rules of the road. And it doesn’t stop there. I am also guilty of telling ‘little white’ lies, which I justify by telling myself that an innocent half-truth to spare another’s feeling is better than sharing the whole painful truth. My guilt extends to stealing as well, which I justify by saying that I am simply borrowing another person’s things without permission, assuming that those who have rightful ownership do not care or will not notice that the purloined property has been taken. I am guilty of violating a number of other laws as well.
I am a lawbreaker. My walk is not blameless, my deeds are not righteous and my words are not truthful: I am in trouble. Because I am a lawbreaker I cannot dwell with God. Is there any hope for someone who willfully violates the mandates of society and of God?
“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.” Romans 5:17–18
Paul’s teaching to the church in Rome states that my lawbreaking ways result in condemnation (eternal separation from our holy Father) but the sacrificing atonement of Christ through the cross results in justification (‘just as if I’d’ never sinned) and life (eternal enjoyment in the presence of our holy Father). I have been declared innocent in and through Christ.
I am a lawbreaker who has been pardoned because of the punishment of another. Knowing this, I do not claim Christ’s sacrifice and scars as a ‘get out of jail free’ card while continuing in my lawless ways but rather I seek to honor the pain and punishment the Savior endured by living the life He desires – to be blameless, righteous and truthful. Will I live perfectly from this point on? I hope so. Will my son point out my offenses again? I hope not. All I can say with certainty is that I long to live a life worthy of the calling I have received in and through Christ…and stop seeking ways to justify why the rules don’t apply to me.