It was one of those days. I had to run some errands before I got to the airport to travel overseas for a mission trip. Everyone else decided that this day was a day to stop and smell the roses, if you catch my drift. I was frustrated because my need for speed would have been handled by people driving the speed limit. Then, the final straw. Someone was poking along at 20 on a main street, limit 35. I gritted my teeth and stayed behind them because I was turning at the next intersection. They were too. The light was green and they decided that before they turned, they had to stop. That was it. When I turned onto a newly fixed road, I got into the left lane to pass them. The road was so good, I was thinking that the speed limit was 45. My wife reminded me that it was 35 and so I slowed down, but it was too late.
I was contrite when the cop pulled me over. I didn’t try to make excuses. I apologized to the cop and accepted the ticket. I asked him when the court date was. He told me a date that would be about a week after I returned and I said, “Great, I’ll be back home, then.” When he asked about that, I told him about my travel plans. He took the ticket back from me and wrote “warning” across the ticket and told me that I shouldn’t have to worry about that while I was traveling. In that encounter, I experienced both law and grace. As John described Jesus coming to earth, he reminded us of the difference. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
John reminded us what a difference Jesus makes in this world. Religions up to that time, including Judaism, were law based. If you followed the right rituals and did the right things, you could expect God, or the gods depending on your point of view, to do certain things. There were hints of grace in the Old Testament times, ok, there was lots of grace when you consider how long it took for the people of Israel and Judah to be conquered given their rebellion, but overall, the theme was following the laws and rituals to appease God. Once the Jews returned to the land of Israel, they sought to make sure that they would never again be exiled and so they interpreted the Torah and came up with a code to live by. They had 613 laws that you had to follow to be right with God. Only, not everyone could do that and society split into Pharisees and other religious elite folks, and the common folk or “sinners” as the Pharisees called them with upturned noses. John points out that in the midst of that world, Jesus came. His message wasn’t “follow the Law” it was “God loves you” and He brought grace and truth.
The officer I encountered brought me truth: I was speeding and breaking the law. He then brought me grace in making the ticket a warning ticket. The truth that Jesus reminds us of is our separation from God. That gulf between God and man is sin. The grace that Jesus brings is that we can have a relationship with God. That relationship with Him isn’t based on following the law; it’s not based on how good we are. That relationship with Him is based on God’s grace and forgiveness. It’s exciting to know that the God of this universe cares about us. The problem is that often, Christians who have accepted God’s grace are so afraid of offending God that we have set up our own systems of laws so that we won’t do things that separate us from God. What we fail to realize is that God’s laws in the Bible are designed to make our lives better. They aren’t designed to be indicators of who is in or out of favor with God. The truth is that we have fallen away from God. Jesus also brings us the truth of a way to have fellowship with God. God’s grace covers over our sins and He throws them away as far as the east is from the west. Whoever you are. Whatever you’ve done. God’s grace is enough to forgive and love you.
Lord, I need Your grace every day. Even as I receive Your grace, let me show it to others.