The other day as I pulled into my driveway at the end of a long day at work, I stopped to pull the mail out of the mailbox. As usual, I flipped through the envelopes to see if there was anything “exciting!” A return address caught my eye: City of Memphis Photo Enforcement Program. Immediately, I had a sinking feeling in my heart. I knew what it was before I even opened it.

You see, last Tuesday I was driving to work and my mind was wandering. I really wasn’t paying attention to what was going on around me, caught up in my own thoughts. I got to an intersection and the light was yellow, but I figured it was easier to just keep going instead of slamming on my brakes. So I plowed ahead, only to see the light turn red before I got there. Uh-oh. I wasn’t expecting it to turn so soon.

I looked overhead to see if a camera would flash, capturing my law-breaking sin. It didn’t, and I was hoping that the lack of a flashing camera would save me from the penalty. Nevertheless, I felt badly about what I had done. I knew the consequences could have been unpleasant– I could have hit someone who had moved forward on their green light. I knew that running that red light was wrong, but no one was hurt and I didn’t do it exactly on purpose. Hopefully, no one (that mattered) saw what happened.

When I got the notice in the mail last week, I knew I was guilty and I had to pay the penalty for breaking the law. I truly felt remorse. There was no way to argue my way out of this one or plead my case because they sent pictures to confirm the incident. So today I sat down and watched the video of my “crime” online and immediately wrote out the check to pay the penalty, while praying, “Lord, please don’t let me do this again.”

It made me thankful as I reflected on another penalty that I owed – the penalty for my sins. And yet, God loves me so much that He paid it for me. He paid it for you. Let’s not forget the love bestowed on us through Christ’s death on the cross. I am free. When I paid the penalty for running the red light, it set me free. When Christ paid the penalty for my sins, it set me free for eternity.

Take a moment to thank Him for paying the penalty for your sins. Thank Him for setting you free.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever had to pay the penalty for something you did that was wrong, like running a red light or speeding? How did you feel?

  1. These small penalties teach us large lessons…thanks for sharing!

  2. A few years back I had a wreck and, indeed, I did thank God that I did not kill or hurt anyone-just two cars, but it is so ingrained in us to protest our innocence. I almost could not bear to think of myself as someone who goes around hitting cars they do not see. When will I learn to leave my reputation with Him? A friend reminded me of the check that God wrote for me to pay for every sin in my life and- since God already knew I would have that wreck-that sin was included. Crickett-thank you for sharing and thank you for the tip-off about the cameras!!!!! Of course-the real reason to obey the traffic laws is to glorify God but it is an extra incentive to know that the hidden camera is watching. Is that terrible?????

  3. Mary and Cindy, thanks for your comments. A good reminder that we obey laws to glorify God.

  4. I knew we had a lot in common! God used a speeding ticket to teach me to obey when I hear His voice. And that He is long suffering, yet my sin brings consequence. Even though I knew the Holy Spirit was convicting me of breaking the law by speeding, I continued to speed. It was when I paid the penalty of a speeding ticket that I was set free and reminded of His glorious grace. As with you, God used this real life picture to show me His payment of my penalty. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. My experience was a bit different from yours, but ended with the same basic lesson. Flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror…adrenaline surge…rapid heartbeat…quick glance at the speedometer. No, I’m not speeding. “Wonder why that guy has his flashing lights on?” I innocently say to my sister. “Is he after me?” I ask. Since he is right on my bumper, my sister replies, “I think so, but it’s ok, you weren’t doing anything wrong. Just pull over. This is gonna be all right. You weren’t speeding.” She’s right, I had my cruise control on, so I know there’s no way I was speeding. But as the cocky young police officer gets out and swaggers up to my car, I say to my sister, “No, this is not good…we’re in big trouble.” I could tell by the way he walked…this guy had an attitude. Now you could accuse me of a lot of sins that I admit I am guilty of, but speeding is something I just don’t habitually do. It’s a moral conviction with me, actually it is an act of worship as I submit to the authorities God has placed over me. Even if I were prone to speed, I especially wouldn’t do it in Illinois, because I have observed over the 10 years of going to see my daughter that IL police are everywhere, vigilantly giving tickets. So you can imagine my indignation when, after significant protest & discussion on my part, the guy gives me a ticket for going 76 mph in a 65 mph zone. Now you have to understand that I have never driven 76 mph, not anywhere and espeically not in IL. My sense of justice was outraged: I was not guilty… I did not deserve that ticket. Why should I have to pay for something I did not do? I fumed over it the entire 3 hours the rest of the way home. A few days later as I was preparing a Bible study on the cross, it hit me how unlike the Lord I am. While I resisted paying for one thing I did not do, He was completely willing to pay, not just for one thing He didn’t do, but for the sins of the whole world. And it brought Him joy to do it. Forgive me, Lord! And thank you for being willing to pay the penalty you did owe that belonged to me.

    • oops! i left out a key word in the last sentence. .. it should read:
      thank you for being willing to pay the penalty you did NOT owe that belonged to me.

      • What great wisdom, Carolyn!! Thank you for speaking to my heart with your comment!!

  6. Knowing that God’s “camera” always captures the images of my sins but that He then “throws away” the pictures and doesn’t press the charges against me makes me want to catch myself before I sin – not get away with it! Isn’t it wonderful how grace brings greater desire for obedience – because of His great love and mercy already poured out for me!

  7. Shirley and Carolyn, Great insight! Thanks for sharing.

  8. I know the feeling of being “busted”, too. I got one of those notices in the mail, and I knew right away what it was for–but I was indignant because I had been turning right on red, and that shouldn’t count for running a red light! I watched their traffic cam video, and sure enough, I had “rolled” through the stop. It’s amazing how we justify ourselves in being “close” to right! (Guess who comes to a complete stop now before turning right on red?!)

  9. The Germantown Police have my picture underneath a “red” light as well. I almost had Sam convinced that he was driving my car that day. I, too, sat down and wrote a check for the penality I owed because I had broken the law. Without blame, Jesus paid the ultimate price, that He did not owe, for my sins I commit everyday. For that I am eternally grateful.
    I am so grateful for this blog-You have richly blessed my life in many ways. Thank you that you are the gift that keeps on giving!!!

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