by Toni Campbell
I rounded the corner, approached the crosswalk, then saw movement out of the corner of my eye. A woman had just stepped into the roadway. I tapped my brakes, making a split-second assessment of the situation. Judging the distance between myself, the pedestrian, and a car behind me, I decided it was safest to proceed forward.
I glanced in the rear view and was surprised to see the other car follow me through the walkway. The pedestrian almost walked into it. Yet another backward glance and my heart sank at the sight of flashing lights.
“License, registration and insurance card please.”
“Can I ask what I did?”
“You went through the crosswalk with the pedestrian in it.”
“I saw her, and even tapped my brakes, but there was a car behind me. Can I ask why you didn’t pull them over instead?” I was trying to politely defend my actions.
“I felt you had the better field of vision.”
A protest of It’s not fair went through my mind, but I held my tongue. Instead, I prayed, Please God, let him come back with a warning. No such break. As he walked away, my eyes welled with tears at the cost of the fine: $230!
I thought about challenging the ticket, but I kept coming to the same conclusion. The judge might ask, “Was there a pedestrian in the crosswalk?” and “Did you drive through the crosswalk?” And I could only answer “yes.” By the letter of the law, I was guilty.
A few days later, I went to the payment website and saw something strange. When I plugged in my information, this popped up: “Fee: $0. Ticket addressed.”
As I dialed the court for clarification, I thought, Are you crazy? If it’s a clerical error, you’re alerting them to the mistake! But I informed the clerk about what I’d seen.
A few minutes later, she returned. “That’s correct. You owe nothing. The officer rescinded the ticket.”
“Really? I…I really am a good driver” I said weakly.
“Well, the officer must have decided not to pursue it,” she said.
The mercy and forgiveness extended to me was unexpected and undeserved. Likewise, God’s gift of forgiveness, offered freely through His Son, is undeserved. And His continued mercy to us is renewed each day.
By the letter of God’s law, we are guilty. We can try to compare our sins to the person behind us and think, I’m not as bad as they are! But we all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23) and deserve to pay the penalty (Romans 6:23). We can try to blame our circumstances on the actions of others, but we are responsible for our own actions. We can even try to justify ourselves with, I’m really a good person. But we can never be perfect 100% of the time.
When we finally come to grips with the fact that we’re guilty and can’t escape the penalty for those sins on our own, God hears our tears of repentance. He exercises His mercy when we acknowledge that Jesus died to take on our guilt and act as the sacrifice for our sins. Then He rescinds our ticket to hell and grants us admission to heaven. It’s not a clerical error, oversight, or mistake. God deliberately decides not to pursue it.
I am forever grateful for the love and mercy extended to me so that the Book of Life reads, “Fee: $0. Ticket addressed.”
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: Toni Campbell is passionate about serving others and is employed full-time as the Benevolence Director at her church. She loves to share ideas through speaking engagements and her award-winning book: Jesus Has Left the Building, which is filled with ideas any church can adopt and adapt to impact their community for Christ. Visit tonicampbell.org to learn more!
Join the conversation: Have you ever been given unexpected forgiveness?