I have come to a startling revelation in the past few days: people do not obey the law. In the span of four hours I witnessed: drivers rolling their cars through stop signs and swerving into oncoming traffic due to a car illegally parked halfway onto the sidewalk; jaywalkers; and bicyclists swerving through traffic disregarding any number of signs and hazards (not to mention litterers, trespassers and unpermitted contractors). I suppose the trouble with all of us is that we typically maintain the laws that are enforced and ignore the laws we know we can get away with breaking. If there were a police cruiser within view, we would be cautious, otherwise, we often do as we wish.
But when we live this way, allowing our immediate happiness to overrule our prolonged responsibility for public safety, we risk becoming desensitized to the consequences of our transgressions. When we begin to think that a law is subjective (that our personal perceptions of reality hold more weight than civil conventions) and we begin an inward dialogue that begins, “I don’t need to …”, our recklessness becomes routine and we become dangerous to those around us. We start assuming that we know better and nothing will happen to us. Despite our rationalizations to the contrary, we are not lawbreakers because we get caught; we are lawbreakers because we break the law.
I would be the first to admit that I think about the consequences instead of the code – I have been known to travel faster than the speed limit and do not wait for the vehicles hood to rise before proceeding through a stop signal. I am guilty of assessing the situation in terms of “getting caught” instead of “getting it right”. On those occasions, I am guilty. No excuses and no reasons are acceptable…I am a law breaker.
[Jesus said,] ‘There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.’ Luke 12:2 (NIV)
Our trouble lies in the truth that not only are we breaking the law, whether that transgression is consequential or not, but that every infraction is noticed by God. He sees our rolling stops and He hears our lies. Whether or not we recognize the ramifications, we “get caught” every time. We are accumulating fines for moving violations, building a rap sheet of petty crimes and amassing convictions for slander and false testimony. Not only am I a lawbreaker, but there is a judge who has seen all my infractions.
Our trouble ultimately consists of the fact that we cannot escape the guilt of our acts of ignorance and disobedience. There is a day of reckoning for all our offenses. On that day we will have no excuses. On that day, the Lord will exact just punishment and expect perfect penalty. And on that day, those who trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior will witness their brother by adoption accept all the punishment and penalty for every transgression of the law and, because of His sacrificial death, we will be declared no longer guilty and enter paradise. Those who refused to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior will be required to serve their sentence themselves.
As I travel, it is good to be reminded when I see others breaking the law that I, too, am a lawbreaker. I am guilty. But I am saved through the sacrifice of another, bearing my guilt and taking my punishment. It gives me pause, a moment sufficient to pray for those around me and to praise the One who has forgiven my sin.