God’s Grace Isn’t Grace


Because I love this great country of America, I occasionally decide to fund it all by myself. This time, it wasn’t in the form of a soup kitchen or a charity auction, but in the form of a speeding ticket. And because I didn’t get my “showdown lawyer defense of myself” time in court to explain the extenuating circumstances (because apparently real court is different than Law and Order), you are subject to it now.

I would only like the court to recognize that the location where I was stopped, between the corner of Empire and Culver and 590 south, has a steep downward grade, and that therefore gravity was pushing with greater force on my foot, and I have supremely weak ankles that just couldn’t fight the force pushing them to the floor…and that was the cause of my speeding.

But to be fair, they were pretty nice. I showed up to court, and Judge Valentino told me that they were offering me no points on my license for a 2-point offense. I had to pay the $50 fine with a $93 surcharge (if I was satisfied with the rest, and I was, that was the only part that sounded like shit shadier than an oak tree.) Here’s where the thought about God’s grace comes in.

Supposedly, the greatest story that Christians tell is the one about how Jesus came to be sacrificed for us. Jesus came and took our place for the punishment that we deserved, and I understand that Christians praise it because of its necessity, but they do not necessarily think of it as a “good” thing. But now that we understand each other, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that Christians believe that that is something we should be “happy” about. We should be joyful because of that sacrifice.

But that’s not how justice worked in Judge Valentino’s court. When I went up to the stand, and he told me that what they were offering to remove the points on my license, that was it. The fine and the points were seperate, so I wasn’t paying that fine to get them removed, it would’ve been there regardless. He just meant that the points were gone.

Also, note what he didn’t mean. He didn’t mean that the points were going to be held and if I didn’t pay the fine, they would be applied, like the concept of sin overtaking you, even with Jesus’s sacrifice, if you remove yourself from God. He also didn’t mean that he was taking those two points and applying them to the license of someone who had never sped in their life, as God did with Jesus.

Often times, I find that the Christian model of sin follows the scientific concept of matter and energy, in that they both say: “Welp, it’s gotta go somewhere.” They think of original sin in terms of what Adam and Eve saddled the rest of us with, and that God can’t simply erase or forgive it without going through the proper channels. But considering that moral laws or absolutes are different than matter and energy, allow me to ask the most scientific question there is: “Why?”

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

It sounds kind of nice at the end, but you kind of have to ask: Who set the wages? And why can’t the gift of God simply be eternal life? Why does his plan require (innocent) suffering?

In this instance, it was Judge Valentino that set the wages. And when he decided to pardon the points, there were no strings attached. Now that’s what I call grace.

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8 thoughts on “God’s Grace Isn’t Grace”

  1. Unfortunately, Judges only have three options: They can administer full justice with no grace, they can administer full grace with no justice, or they can administer a mixture of both. That’s what you got, Tim. Your points were forgiven and you still paid your fine.
    Now imagine this:
    Instead of what transpired, something remarkable happens at your arraignment. The Judge steps down, removes his robes, and pleads guilty to your ticket. Then he turns to you and makes you an offer. He tells you that he’ll pay the fine for you if you want him to, or if you’re not comfortable with that, you still have the option to pay the fine yourself.
    I’m curious how you would react. Would you protest? Would you be glad? Or would you leave the court with mixed feelings about what just happened? Is this grace? Or maybe you would take the position that speeding shouldn’t even carry a fine and refuse his offer. After all, why not just forgive it?

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  2. Interestingly enough, I have one of my own court stories that directly contrasts yours.
    A little while back, I was written a ticket in a nearby town for running a red light. In fact, I’m innocent of the offense. I didn’t run the light.
    When arraigned, I plead “not guilty” and quickly was offered all of the typical plea bargains. I refused them.
    So in another couple weeks, I exercised my right to a trial, and had the opportunity to present doubt of my guilt. (In the United States you SHOULDN’T have to prove your own innocence…) So first the officer testified of what he observed. He told the court how he observed my car cross in front of his while the traffic signal facing him turned green simultaneously.
    Then I crossed him. I asked him about the staggered intersection we were in, the three-way timing of the traffic lights, the lack of a supporting deposition, and the view that he had from where he was positioned. He was very honest. He admitted that he was unaware or the distance of the intersection, unaware of the peculiar timing of the traffic lights, he didn’t form a deposition because of a lack of admissible evidence, (I said nothing at the scene) and he was unable to observe me actually running a red light from his position.
    Very satisfied with the results of my questioning, next I took the stand. I testified that the light had changed to yellow at an awkward moment, and that I had forest attempted to stop but was unable, and that I entered the intersection while my light was still yellow, note traveling at a slow rate of speed.
    The officer had no questions. I knew I’d beaten him. I had brought solid doubt and the only witness against admitted he didn’t even see me commit the offense!
    Now was time for the verdict. The judge found me guilty. He said that his reasoning was that the officer was a trained professional. (I took this to mean that’s he’s incapable of making mistakes) So as a result, I was ordered to pay the full penalty.
    So why not accept the grace he offered before? I would’ve paid less and wouldn’t have had to attend a course to remove the points from my licence. Because in this case, I would’ve preferred justice. An innocent person doesn’t need grace, he needs justice. The victims of a crime don’t need grace for their offender, they need justice. If a judge dolled out total forgiveness to everyone, he would rightly lose his job. Justice is just as important as grace.

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    1. As per your first comment, the scenario of the judge taking off his robe and pleading guilty to my crime is exactly the point I was making. I don’t need an innocent person to suffer the consequences, and Judge Valentino didn’t need that either. When he said the points were gone, they were gone, not transferred, or awaiting visitment on some other poor soul. So I guess what I’m saying is that if original sin is true and really the problem, and de facto just through being born I’ve somehow inherited this disease of sin and God’s holding me accountable to an offense I didn’t commit and happened before my birth, then he can send me right along to hell, because that is not just.

      As for your second comment, I’m really not sure of the point you were trying to make, seriously. But the analogy does break down because when you talk about a judge, he is subject to the laws we all agree upon. God is subject to laws that he himself created. And if we give a judge proper authority to pardon offenses on a case-by-case basis, as Judge Valentino did for me, even though we have specific consequences for those crimes, why is God unable to use that same power of discernment, and simply forgive the creatures he created without the tortured process of “salvation”? Why must so many suffer and die in the meantime, or is this really the best plan he could come up with?

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  3. For a little better explanation, my first comment was attempting to relate The Judge to Jesus, as The Bible does, which I know you gathered. My point was, is that you were not totally pardoned. The fine remained as a partial consequence to your offense, meaning that the plea was a mixture of mercy and justice. If the Judge pardoned everybody totally, and there was no fine, nobody would be deterred from speeding, which I’m sure would make a very unsafe roadway. Justice is necessary to maintain order.
    Now according to The Bible, The Lord is a Sovereign, but even so, His law is made for the protection of His subjects. A good question to ask, is if The Law was written entirely for His pleasure, why would He care if a little tiny blue planet in an extremely vast universe practiced infidelity, stole from, or murdered each other? No “skin off of His nose,” right?
    So, even if you disagree with His law, bear with me a moment to look at it from another perspective. Assume for the moment that The Law of The Lord is for the protection of humanity, even the parts involving worship. If this is true, then there are victims to every law that is broken. Is it fair then to the victims to receive no justice? Or by giving eternal life to every person, regardless of their crimes; would this detp

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  4. *deterr the problem of sin from continuing? The plan, in scripture, is to end it forever. But not by destroying all of the sinners, or brainwashing them into obedient robots, but letting every person choose their own destiny, and who they would rather obey: The Lord, or themselves.
    Jesus chose to die to demonstrate the importance of His law, and the measure of the consequences. To forgive the offenses without consequence would illegitimize that law. To destroy every sinner because they have sinned would be tyranny. Without stoke sort of compromise in either His justice, or His mercy, (like the judge in your story gave) I can’t see another way.

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  5. Oh, and just as one other note: Scripture does teach inherit tendencies toward sin. It also teaches that Jesus had those tendencies, and overcame them. (Hebrews 4:15) It also teaches that each individual is accountable for their own actions, not those of their ancestors. (Revelation 20:12-13)

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  6. I already made the point in the post that the money paid was not for the points removed. Judge Valentino didn’t make me pay the fine for the points. He forgave them, and they were gone.

    And no one’s arguing for perfect mercy, for no consequences. But when the children of Israel strayed from God in Jeremiah, he threatens to send them into a period of desperation so extreme that they will eat their children. I’d say that’s a bit much.

    Also, which of God’s laws are for the protection of his people? He didn’t add rape to the ten commandments but instead took precious time to talk about how insecure he was and how we have to worship him only, and all the time. It is not explicit that God’s laws or actions have any direct benefit to human beings, and that they are driven by something more than God’s personal whims.

    The claims that God is somehow in control of a plan that he is leading to an eventual outcome (salvation) and the claim that we have the free will to decide for ourselves what our fate will be are at odds.

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