Guess what? Every one of us is a lawbreaker
While working for the Missouri Baptist Convention, I have had the opportunity and pleasure of traveling all over our great state. It truly is an opportunity. I usually honor the posted speed limit when I am traveling; however, recently while driving through Lebanon going north on Hwy. 5, one of the local peace officers stopped me for driving 48 mph in a 35 mph zone, I should also mention it was a work zone. When he stopped me, the officer asked if I had a reason for speeding. I started to open my mouth to frame a reply and then it occurred to me that I did not have a valid reason and I told him so. The officer then proceeded to issue me a ticket with a court date included. This is the first ticket I have had in over 20 years.
I never entertained the idea of protesting the ticket. As a pastor, I have preached many times on personal responsibility and taking ownership of personal behavior. Therefore, I had no choice but to pay for the ticket and own up to my actions. However, I did not want the ticket to cause points to be added to my license and subsequently increase my insurance rates. So I called the courthouse and they instructed me to appear in court and ask the judge for mercy. So, I put the date on my calendar. I was resolved to not hire an attorney (due solely to financial reasons) and felt I could do what needed to be done. I even received advice from a good attorney friend here in Jefferson City to hire an attorney; he also provided referrals. But, again, I felt I had no need for one.
On May 28 I arrived at the courthouse, early. Soon, all who were to appear that day were summoned to the courtroom. If you have never been to court, then you are missing out. It can be quite an intimidating experience, even for a measly little speeding ticket.
Upon check-in you are not allowed to leave the courtroom without permission. The judge told us if we left and they called our name, he would not send someone to find us and he would promptly issue a warrant for our arrest. It was amazing the authority the judge had in the courtroom. I began to think of the Scriptures that describe God as a judge. It was really an incredible experience.
As I waited for my name to be called and my opportunity to ask the judge for leniency; I began to notice the people around me—it was a pretty rough lot. And, I am ashamed to admit this; I had a very arrogant and unkind thought. I said to myself, “At least I am not like these people.” Immediately I felt the Lord say to me, “Oh, but you are.” And then this word came to my mind … “LAWBREAKER.” Within just a few seconds my phone buzzed and it was a text from my friend, Kurt Simon. The text said LAWBREAKER. Then it was on between me and God. I began to rationalize by thinking “… at least I am not a thief.” Then God brought Malachi 3:8-9 to mind, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!” This really got me. I thought of several occasions where I had not been faithful in tithing and God reminded me I am a thief because I have robbed from Him.
You see, to the judge presiding over the court that Thursday morning, he saw nothing in his courtroom but lawbreakers – of which, I was one. As James 2:10 says, “A person who follows all of God’s law but fails to obey even one command is guilty of breaking all the commands in that law.”
So, I guess we are all lawbreakers. There is no difference between our sins and the sins that we condemn others for. And if I thought appearing before this judge in Camden County was intimidating, how will it be to appear before a Holy and perfect God, where all of our sins will be read off?
By the way, the lady at the courthouse was wrong. The judge could not keep my ticket from penalizing my license. The judge informed me that I had to hire an attorney and appear before the prosecutor. So, I needed an advocate after all. Isn’t it amazing to think of Jesus as our advocate when we appear before God? Job 16:19 says it best, “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my advocate is on high.” (Vince Blubaugh is director of communications and development for the Missouri Baptist Convention.)