Would you believe it? I got a red-light ticket last month. My violation occurred the day after Christmas when I drove up to Austin to meet with Robert Tippett for lunch and some Sunday Night Discussions strategy time. Actually I was informed later on that technically it was in Round Rock, Texas where my heinous crime occurred and that my geographical blunder was very offensive to both Austin-ites and as well as citizens of Round Rock. Sorry about that. In short, I was trying to navigate traffic in an unfamiliar area and I took a right turn on red without coming to a full and complete stop. Yes, there in lay my crime. I know the law. One must come to a complete stop before turning right on red. Taking a quick look before turning doesn’t cut the mustard. I was frustrated though and in a hurry. So I figured my intentions were good enough. I just assumed that overall I’m not a bad driver. I mean this is only the second ticket since I got my license the day after I turned 16. I didn’t hurt anyone and my haste was obviously for a good purpose. It should not have been a big deal at all. Come on, it’s not like I had road rage or something.
But there it was. I got the ticket in the mail a few days ago and was quite surprised. Who saw that coming? Who was this judge who dispensed justice on my seemingly innocent error of traffic navigation? A traffic camera hoisted high above the intersection of Grimes and 79 Palm Valley. My letter of reprimand and fine included the details and photo of my infraction. Then, to dispel all arguments, the letter provided a link where I could actually watch the crime in action. Sure enough, the clip on file showed me slowing down as I approached the intersection but then sliding into a right hand turn on red. It was there. I was caught. Judgment could not be ignored any longer. My letter told me that I could appear in court if I wanted to fight for my cause of self-righteousness. I suppose I could denounce the horrible practice of Government intrusion or how unfairly the Round Rock City officials govern their streets. I could; but why? My crime was clear and for all to see. There was no way out. I broke the law. I was fined. We call that justice.
At the end of the day it was somewhat of a laughing matter as I don’t normally run red lights and I actually was able to give another one of those “Steve” life lessons to my teen drivers. But I also saw in the situation another Kingdom reality for all of us who walk this earth. The truth of the matter is that whether we like it or not there is another Judgment that is far more significant than traffic cameras. In our culture of making God nice we so many times forget that God is also Holy and Just. Often God is painted as an old grandfather passing out candy to the kids when they come by to visit once or twice a year. The divine reality however is something enormously different. The Bible refers to God as a consuming fire as well as a loving father. The Bible shows Jesus blessing the children as well as coming in the clouds for judgement. We see clearly in scripture judgement as well as the opportunity to receive the grace God offers to those who would humbly come to Him.
The Bible shows us that God not only knows the number of hairs on our heads but he also see all that we do and what lies deep in the innermost DNA of our hearts. For that reason there will be a day when all will be made known. Just as my breaking of a traffic law was obvious, so one day all of our sin will be made obvious. No matter how you cut it; there will be a time when God brings judgment and justice to the world. The score will be settled and no excuse will stand. Those who have rejected God will pay for their sin and those who have submitted themselves to God’s grace through Christ will be rewarded and it’s just as simple as that video clip showing my crime.
So what do we do? How should we live?
The first answer is to admit our sin and humbly come to Christ. That’s why Jesus went to the cross; to pay our debt which we all deserve. The second is to begin to actually live the Kingdom lifestyle in the here and now. While the Kingdom will not find fulfillment until that day of judgment, we can live by His rule in our hearts today. We can live the way Christ lived and we can share His love with those around us. We can anticipate the final judgment without fear and look forward to His complete grace and eternity exploring all that God has to offer those who love Him.
Regarding my traffic ticket, I tried to pass the basket for donations, but came up short. Nope; no takers to help me out of this one. I had to stand alone. So I paid my fine and wrote a blog post. Regarding the ultimate Judgment from above, we’ll all stand before a Holy Judge alone someday. There will be grace and reward for those who humbly come to Christ and condemnation for those who attempt to settle on their own merit. The only question is which camp we choose to pitch our tent in.