For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.—James 2:10
One New Year’s Eve, my friends had invited me to a celebration on the opposite end of town. I decided to stay overnight at that end of town to avoid all the drunk drivers. The next morning, I drove back home in my red sports car so I could get ready for my afternoon shift at the newspaper where I worked as an editor.
But before I reached my exit, a police car with flashing lights began to tail me. I pulled over.
“Officer, why am I being pulled over? I was being passed on both sides,” I complained (not a good way to ingratiate yourself to a police officer, by the way).
“But you were speeding,” he replied.
He had me, and it stung. Yes, others were more flagrant in their lawlessness than I was. Yes, my arrest-me-red Mustang convertible probably brought me unwanted attention. But yes, I was speeding. I never forgot that lesson.
When I talk with people about sin and salvation, I often recognize the same attitude I once had in them. Why should they have to worry? They’re not nearly as bad as all those other people. What they don’t see is their denial is an admission of guilt.
The very fact we would have to defend or minimize our bad choices means we’ve made them. God calls those bad choices sin. And in His mind, in the context of His holiness and perfection, one sin is as offensive as a multitude because He can allow none of it into His presence.
Our relative goodness compared with others does not put us on better standing with God. In His view, the lawbreaking speeder is also a liar, a murderer, a thief, an idolator and an adulteress. Breaking one law puts us on the same plane as someone who has broken all of them: We all fall short of the glory of God.
When we can humble ourselves enough to have a correct assessment of our own brokenness and guilt, then God can begin His work in our hearts. He shows us our inadequacy and His sufficiency. He extends His grace. He binds our wandering hearts to His own and helps us to begin to see as He sees, love as He loves, say as He says and do as He does. We begin to love the law we once spurned. Moreover, we love the Lawmaker, and we see the wisdom and goodness in His ways.
The next time you go to do something you shouldn’t, because it’s really not that big a deal (so you tell yourself), imagine a police car with flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Then imagine Jesus Himself at the wheel. He gives you two options: Pay the fine for all your violations yourself, knowing you can never pay enough, or accept His payment on your behalf. If you accept His payment, be willing to accept His terms: “Now go,” Jesus says, “and sin no more.”