Friday, March 9, 2012

Pushing The Limit

“...Their sins are constantly pushing the limit....” 1 Thessalonians 2:16b (CEB)
I almost didn’t open the letter addressed to me from the Virginia Beach Police. I was thinking it was probably one of those Support Your Local Police fundraiser letters. Not that I don’t want to support my local police..but, I just wasn’t feeling “led” to support financially while I held the letter in my hand. 

Yet...something inside of me led me to open it anyway. Well...I think you can imagine my surprise when I saw what was inside was not a letter, but a citation!  

My thoughts went racing as I scanned the letter. At first, I believed this has to be some kind of horrible mistake. Why would I get a citation? What have I ever done that should warrant one? I just knew...someone must have stolen my identity and now the police think that I, a model citizen, has done something wrong. 

Unfortunately, my scanning soon led me to the realization that I had indeed been seen least my car had been have broken the law. The letter contained three photos of my car taken from a Red Light Photo Enforcement Program. The citation stated that I had “run a red light”. 


I know that I do not “run red lights” so this had to be a mistake! I was mentally reciting my defense for the traffic court judge as I went on- line as the citation suggested to watch a video of my “offense”.  

I must of watched that brief video twenty times or more. When I first watched it, I recalled the day I was at this intersection. I rarely travel to this particular intersection, so it wasn’t hard for me to recall where I was going and even what actually happened that day I had quickly “rolled up” to the light in question. I was running late for an appointment and when I had reached the “red light” I quickly paused to see if any cars were coming and saw that they too were stopped at the intersection. I knew instinctively that their light would soon turn green so after knowing I was “clear to go”...I quickly did just that. 

As I watched my violation video over and over, I kept thinking, it was not really “clear” that I didn’t actually stop. I mean...I did pause! The citation said I was found “running a red light”. Well, that’s not true. You can clearly see my red brake lights are on as my wheels ever so slowly come to an almost complete stop. I did not RUN the red light. 

I began to feel a surge of “injustice” has been done to me. I need to fight this charge since I do not deserve to be placed in the same category of “traffic offenders” know...those who REALLY DO run red lights. 

I decided I could reasonably defend myself as one who “felt” that I stopped long enough and therefore...I do not deserve the citation or the $50.00 fine that goes with it. 

Feeling assured of victory, I felt a moment of satisfaction...but only a moment. When in the next moment I felt the very clear tugging on my heart to confess the truth of what I was really doing in all of this. While losing myself in my pre-sentence posturing...I had forgotten one important fact – I'M GUILTY.

Try as I might to rationalize or minimize my behavior, one blaring truth remained... I got caught! There is a law and I broke it. I may have escaped notice by those around me or even by an actual police officer...but I know about the law of which I am not ignorant. It was not the camera’s fault, it is mine. 
Yet...when I was busy minimizing my degree of law breaking by pausing instead of stopping...when I rationalized my offense as being “less than what others do”...especially those drivers who actually RUN a red light...which is CLEAR to all they have broken the law in comparison...have I not just attempted to see my sin of ignoring the law as less than the sin of another? 

Am I not trying to "push the limit" of what the law says?

Strange...I never thought I would ever “relate” myself to the Pharisee in the parable Jesus taught in Luke 18:9-14.

The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” ~Luke 18:11 NASB 

Boy was I ever missing out on the understanding of my guilt! Like a “roll through traffic” disciple, I was looking around at the other “red light runners”, and not the offense I made...thinking that maybe I'm not really guilty – or at least not as guilty. 

You know...I don’t really want or expect God to allows me to “roll through” in regards to his commands.

When I minimize my guilt, I minimize His grace...and His grace changes everything! Knowing my guilt.... His grace frees me to obey Him. Like the camera at the intersection that caught me...the law is no longer a burden but an avenue through which I can express my gratitude for the protection it intends for me to live under.

The Pharisee in this parable loved little not because he had little guilt, but because he THOUGHT he had little guilt. I do not want to be found in such a condition! Thankfully the Holy Spirit guides me to heed His teaching and open my eyes to confess my guilt unafraid.

Our desire to remain aware of how very much we have been forgiven is not so we will feel condemned. Let us not be afraid to confess our guilt – that we might fully see the vastness of his grace. His grace changes everything.

“Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Protect this good thing that has been placed in your trust through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”                 
~ 2 Timothy 1:13-14



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