Welcome to 2016, although I confess it is already March (#howdidthathappen?). Astronomical Spring is upon us, even if meteorological winter has just arrived (which, being interpreted, means it’s cold when it should be warm!). My own 2016 got off to a worrying start, when I opened an email headed:
DART CHARGE WARNING LETTER – PENALTY CHARGE NOTICE
I had used the new toll-free M25 Dartford Crossing for work, and had forgotten to pay the toll. Perhaps my mistake was thinking it was toll-free, whereas in fact the new system is free-flow tolling where you just drive through and pay online by midnight the next day. Trouble was, I didn’t, and now I was in trouble!
I read with a deepening frown across my brow. The damage? £70! I could scarcely contain my rage. How much?! Uncertain whether I sounded more like John McEnroe (You cannot be serious!) or Victor Meldrew (I don’t belieeeve it!), I read on. “If you pay your outstanding crossing charge by X date we’ll cancel this penalty charge.” The Department for Transport were apparently lenient to first time offenders, it being a new system. How generous I thought as I penned my grovelling appeal letter.
Trouble was, I did forget to pay, I was guilty of the charge, and I should strictly speaking have had to pay up. Grovel I must, and grovel I did. As I signed my name to the letter, I suddenly realised that there is an obvious spiritual lesson here. The Bible puts it even more clearly than the Penalty Charge Notice:
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” — Romans 3 v 23
“For the wages of sin is death…” — Romans 6 v 23
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive…” — Ephesians 2 v 4
Just as I couldn’t argue with the number plate recognition cameras, I can’t argue with God that I’m morally accountable to Him and have failed His standards of perfection. I know the penalty — spiritual death is due to me, but remarkably God offers me an opportunity to waive the penalty! I didn’t have to pay the toll charge, and I don’t have to answer to God for my sin because He offers me mercy — I don’t receive what I deserve.
Unlike the Dartford Crossing, the penalty for my sins was not simply waived, “God might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” — Romans 3 v 26. God’s Son Jesus Christ paid the price of His life, so that God the just was satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.
One final reflection on my letter. I was given a period of grace, within which I could escape the fine. The human race is also given a day of grace where God extends His kindness to us. Paul put it this way: Behold now is the favourable time, now is the day of salvation — 2 Corinthians 6 v 2. Why do we wait to take advantage of it?
The gospel message is all around us if we care to look: the question is, are we taking any notice?
See you @ YPBC in the summer!
Jon – Young Christians’ Bible Study Camp Leader