OK – a little honesty about myself. I’m a lawbreaker. I don’t obey all of the traffic laws when I drive, because I usually drive between five and ten miles per hour over the speed limit when I’m on the highway.
Yesterday on my way home from work, I was pulled over by a highway patrolman and issued a citation for driving 64 mph in a 55 zone. This started me thinking about the reasons why officers issue citations, which can at times seem capricious.
Citations do serve a purpose: they remind us that there is an open set of consequences that may be applied, and if you don’t want to be one of the unlucky ones who is pulled over then you had better obey the law. The fear of a citation and fine is supposed to scare us into obedience. But it doesn’t work. Not always, at any rate.
Unfortunately, our human nature prefers to rebel against this sort of imposed obedience. Sin isn’t just a casual disregard of the law–it’s open defiance of it. And once I was clear of those dreaded blue lights, I was back to my old tricks. In fact, I was going faster than before for the sole purpose of openly defying the law. What’s more, I have to admit it felt good. I liked it.
But I was reminded of Paul’s saying that we’re supposed to be in this world but not of this world, as he says in Romans 12, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. And I was behaving just the way the world would expect me to, shaking my fist in anger and pitching a good old-fashioned hissy fit.
I was also reminded of Paul’s instruction in Romans 13, that everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established….he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. So according to Paul, the Fuzz is an agent of God!
Finally, I remembered Paul’s constant admonitions to avoid living into our sinful desires, especially Romans 8 in which he says, for if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. Breaking the law to thumb my nose at The Man was clearly not turning away from sinful desires or being led by the Spirit. Thanks, Paul!
So this morning I tried to drive the speed limit to work, which led to being fifteen minutes late and being honked at, tailgated and having more than one middle finger waved at me in anger.
Of course, Jesus repeatedly made it clear that if you want to commit a sin then it’s as if you’ve committed it already, and I certainly didn’t want to obey the speed limit. But at least I paid my fine this morning. After all, Jesus said “Render unto Caesar…” Then again, I didn’t really want to do that, either.