Have you ever talked your way out of a speeding ticket? Let me say that it has been many years since I have been pulled over for speeding. But my history is not absent this experience. Along the way two different conversations with law enforcement officers involved God. Although both conversations had a common theme, they ended decisively differently.
One Sunday morning I was traveling across the state of Arkansas on my way to a preaching engagement. One of my children rode in the front seat with me. While making my way on this Arkansas state highway, I cruised on past the speed limit. Soon I saw the flashing lights in my rear view mirror. The officer pulled me over. He asked where I was heading in such a hurry. I sheepishly told him of my destination.
The officer took pity and sent me on my way with words of encouragement about my preaching that day. I was thankful for his mercy. I stayed within the speed limit for the rest of my journey.
A few months later, I was on I-430 in Little Rock. Again I exceeded the speed limit and saw the familiar flashing lights in my mirror. This officer was much more stern as we began our conversation. In my mind I recalled my earlier experience and hoped for a smilar outcome. When the officer asked me what I did for a living, I knew the opportunity had presented itself (Arkansas is the Land of Opportunity after all).
I boldly proclaimed that I was the pastor of a church about 5 miles away. He responded, “Well, you should know better then.” He proceeded to write out a ticket with my name on it.
Not only was I guilty of breaking the laws regarding the use of a motor vehicle, I was now guilty of using the work of God as my “get out of jail free” card. That is probably a more egregious sin. I was, in fact, trivializing the work and name of God for my own benefit. I’m pretty sure that God would rather I obeyed the speeding laws as a representative of his name.
It would be easy to blame one officer as being too lax and the other as being too stern. Instead it was a good lesson for me on the virtues of justice and mercy. The ticket-writing officer gave me what I deserved. That was justice. The other officer could have done the same thing, but he extended mercy. I did not deserve mercy.
Often we seem to expect mercy. We think we deserve it. Hold on…then it isn’t mercy at all. Mercy, by definition, is not receiving the justice we deserve.
Have you ever gotten angry when somebody did not offer you mercy? That’s the wrong approach. Be thankful for but not expecting of mercy.
Have you ever tried to use the name of work of God as a defense for something you should not be doing? I would love to hear about it as long as it does not really incriminate you.