I drove yesterday on the highways of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, which can be a death-defying experience. This was no exception: at one point, a black pickup truck pulled up inches from my back bumper and stayed there until I changed lanes to get out of his way, then sped on to bully the next person in the lane. If I had needed to brake for any reason, I might not be writing these words today.
In that moment, I wished a police officer had seen this driver and pulled him over. Any ticket the man received would be more than just.
But not all such tickets are justified. An Italian woman driving a Ford Focus down a coastal highway received a ticket for nearly $1000. That’s because a speed camera clocked her traveling at almost 437 mph.
However, the top speed of such a car in Europe is 155 mph. The Devel Sixteen, a 5,007 horsepower supercar that’s among the fastest in the world, cannot get with 100 mph of the speed she was clocked at driving.
It turns out, the speed camera was malfunctioning, of course. As were the local police who failed to double-check its findings before issuing the woman such an exorbitant ticket. A transportation spokesman advised the driver to appeal to local authorities for compensation.
Choosing between justice and grace
In these days of pandemic crisis, when so much unjust and innocent suffering surrounds us, it can be easy to question the justice and righteousness of God. If we would not allow such pain, why does he?
But his word assures us that his character has not changed despite our circumstances. Consider this remarkable juxtaposition of God’s mercy and justice: “The Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18).
Our Father wants to be gracious and merciful to us. Such mercy does not contradict the fact that he is a “God of justice.” Rather, it points to the fact that those who “wait for him,” trusting him with their eternal salvation and present needs, find him to be a God of love (1 John 4:8).
How can God be both just and merciful? By paying with his Son the price of justice on our behalf: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Imagine a judge who declared us guilty of speeding and pronounced our fine, then he took out his wallet and paid the debt himself. Or a warden who declared that the time had come for our execution, then he climbed onto the gurney and took the needle that was intended for us.
The next time you wish a police officer would pull over a speeder, think of the times an officer could have pulled you over. When you wish that someone would “get what is coming to them,” consider the times you deserved such justice.
Then give thanks that the Supreme Judge of the universe is also your loving Father. And pay forward the grace you have received so that someone else can make him their Father as well.
Martin Luther noted: “The law works fear and wrath; grace works hope and mercy.” Which will you offer today?