Scenario: You are driving down the highway on a long road trip. The speed limit is 70 miles per hour, but knowing the chances of getting ticketed are slim, you push it up to about 73. Going around a long curve you are passed by another driver doing at least 85mph, which makes you mad. Then, at the end of the curve you see a police officer who pulls you both over and gives both of you a ticket.
Question: How do you respond?
If you are anything like me, you get really upset because you clearly weren’t speeding like that guy was speeding. He obviously deserved a ticket, but we were barely going over the speed limit. The cop could have let us off with a warning.
The thing is, in our minds we have a skewed sense of what’s “fair,” that in reality leans toward our own benefit. We certainly think the other guy should get a ticket for his obvious speeding, yet, although we were intentionally going over the speed limit, we don’t think we should get the ticket because we were barely breaking the law. It’s “guilt by comparison.”
The reality is that too many of us expect that same version of justice when it comes to our faith. We think that the judgement of God towards sin will be slanted in our favor because although we do struggle with minor sins, it isn’t like we’ve killed anyone. Since most of us live our lives only barely breaking God’s laws, and on that day there will be so many people at the judgement seat who have done way worse that we did, it is only fair that God punish them and not us.
Deep down we really want God to be like that police officer who we can negotiate with and get off with a warning. However God’s judgement on humanity must be seen more like that of a judge in the courtroom rather than the cop who may let you off because you weren’t doing too much over the speed limit.
I remember one time in High School when I got a ticket for not stopping behind a stop sign. I did stop, but it was about 10 feet after the sign. I even had good reason, too. It was late at night and I was on a road coming out of the pasture. Had I stopped behind the sign, I would not be able to see traffic coming from either direction due to the brush that extended all the way to the road. So, instead of stopping at the sign, I stopped at the roadside so that I could actually see traffic. To my dismay, though, I stopped at the roadside right as a police officer passed and who quickly turned back to give me a ticket. Because I didn’t have the skill to talk my way out of it, I had to go see the a local judge.
I thought that surely once the judge heard my side of the story that I would be let off, but that isn’t how things work in court. The judge only had one question for me. Did you stop behind the stop sign like the law requires. “No, but…” I was cut off. The judge didn’t care about my “but” once I had admitted to breaking the law.
God’s judgement will be the same. Did you keep my commandments? “No, but…” It won’t matter what we have to say next. If you break the law, the justice of God demands punishment.
The scariest part of this is that the Bible makes clear that everyone is guilty of breaking the law, and deserves the wrath of God. You can’t negotiate your way out of this. You can’t compare yourself with others to try and prove you aren’t as guilty as they are. It won’t matter. You can’t talk your way out of this ticket. You have sinned against God, and He will see to the punishment.
The good news is, though, that God is a God of mercy and He doesn’t want to punish all of humanity. He wants to show grace and offer forgiveness of sin. The problem is that the law requires punishment for the crimes committed?
That’s where the story of Jesus comes in. In order for God to meet the demands of the law, while also offering forgiveness of sins, He came into humanity and bore the punishment of our sins for us. That is why Jesus died on the cross, and that is the only “legal” way we have of finding forgiveness in the eyes of God’s law.
Most people don’t think they need a Savior, which is usually an issue of pride. They tend to think that they are decent people and that God will overlook their sin as long as the morality scales lean more toward good than bad. The problem is, they are judging this by what they judge is fair, instead of what the judge says is “legal.”
What you need to know is that it doesn’t matter how far over the line you cross into sin, the punishment is the same – death and eternal separation from God in hell. Either you will face that punishment yourself, or you will accept Jesus as your Savior who paid the ransom for your guilt when He died on the cross.
There will be no morally good people receiving eternal life, only redeemed ones. What will be your plea when you stand before the Judge of Creation? “Forgiven in Christ,” or “Guilty as charged?”