Recently I was pulled over by a police officer for the first time in my life. A real, live police officer. He sauntered up to my window and explained my infraction, following the car in front of me too closely, and I did all the normal things you’re supposed to do when you get pulled over by a cop. You better believe I threw on my Southern “Yes sir” charm. Thanks to what I am going to believe was the tantrum-throwing toddler in my backseat, he let me off with a warning.
Even still, I felt a bit ruffled.
Following the car in front of me too closely? Is that seriously a law? I wasn’t pushing crystal meth to five-year-olds. Are you even a real cop!?
My thoughts are exactly how you and I respond to God’s law.
In my study of Romans (using the gorgeous Give Me Jesus journal from Life Lived Beautifully), I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘righteousness, which isn’t surprising as the word appears 31 times in Paul’s letter.
I think we all strive for righteousness, but we may use different words for it. Perfection. Accomplishment. The good life. What we’re wanting, ultimately, is the feeling that we’re doing okay.
Here’s the deal: we’re actually not okay. We’re totally not okay.
We may strive for righteousness, if not God’s then a standard of our own design, but we’ll always fall short.
As I was preparing this post, my seminarian husband encouraged me with these words:
If you are going to follow Paul’s thinking, which you should 😉 (isn’t he cheeky!?) then you have to overwhelm your reader with the law and how helpless we are to be saved by it before we are Christians, and once we are Christians.
Let me overwhelm you.
Any relationship has ‘rules of engagement’. I know to not squeeze our toothpaste tube in the middle and my husband knows to not talk when I’m watching Call The Midwife. Even my police officer was upholding laws that keep our driving relationships safe. These examples are silly, but you get the point. Laws help us know how to ensure our interactions run smoothly. They keep us in check. Laws show us how to honor those in authority.
God’s law is impossible for us to keep in our own ability.
The Bible says that we are so unclean even our good deeds look dirty to God (Isaiah 64:6). It tells us that even if we kept the words of the law, that wouldn’t be enough to make us right before God (Romans 3:20). “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12)
Now that you’re feeling like you need a bath, here’s the good news: Jesus saves.
See, we actually need more than a bath. We need an entirely new identity.We need a new heart, a new life. That, friends, is the Gospel. Jesus lived a perfect life, that He offers to us as our own. The law, then, throws us back on Christ – what He has done and is doing for us now.
When we accept Jesus’ perfect upholding of the law on our behalf, the law ceases to be a burden for us to follow. In fact, it becomes a delight! When we walk in new life with Christ, we want to do the things that God says are best for us.
So the next time you pass a squad car, or even get pulled over by a man in blue (though I hope not!) use it as a reminder of God’s law. Use it as a reminder of your new life in Christ, and walk in obedience to the life of faith He has called you to.