Ignorance is no excuse for the law…
I recently obtained my first speeding ticket. After 12 years or so of driving, I figured I was finally due for the awesome feeling of violating local laws. (The only other ticket I’ve received was turning right on red where it was apparently prohibited.)
Speeding is not an easy thing to do in a Buick, so one would think I was intentional about it. However, I was driving what had been the speed limit when I was marked. Driving back to Michigan from Cincinnati, I was pulled over somewhere in the vast not-too-populous areas of Ohio. Upon seeing a sign for a construction zone, and a new speed limit on those electric signs, I slowed to the required speed (which was duly encouraged by the car in front of me doing the same). After about 45 seconds of driving 55mph, I saw the lights flash behind me from the police car that had been tailing me since the sign for the construction zone.
I wondered if I had a tail light out? Perhaps Ohio had anti-Buick laws? The officer pointed out to me that I was doing 70 in a 55, and assumed I had just spotted him or the speed limit sign and only then slowed down. I submitted to him that I slowed at the first sign I saw, which was the one he was waiting near, to which he replied that there was a previous sign indicating the upcoming work zone. Upcoming? Meaning it wasn’t 55mph yet? So, I was ticketed for going the speed limit? There were neither orange barrels/signs, nor signs of construction until I saw the sign and thus slowed. Because the courthouse for this county is 4 hours away contesting the ticket seems frivolous. Yet, I admit there is a possibility that I just failed to see some prior speed limit sign, but I am fairly certain the sign that the officer was parked near was the first one.
According to the officer, who bears legal authority, I broke the law. As a human, I tend to get defensive in such situations, because I feel victimized. I didn’t know the speed limit was 55, so why should I pay a penalty for breaking that law? Whether you know of the law or not, breaking it has penalties. This is a simple truth in human laws, natural laws, and God’s laws.
Both of my tickets were in situations where I was ignorant of the law. Thus humanly, I am often tempted to say, “it’s not my fault!” Yet breaking laws do have consequences, and while sometimes we have to deal with the unpleasantries of that, more often than not this is a good thing. Would you want someone from another country coming to America, murdering people, and getting away with it simply because he/she wasn’t aware that was illegal? How about theft?
This concept transcends simply being a “laws of the land” ordeal however. While most human rights organizations condemn it, in some countries/cultures “honor-killings” are permitted. (the homicide of a family member because of a perceived dishonor they’ve brought to the family – including refusal to enter an arranged marriage, being in an unapproved relationship, or being the victim of rape) Even if the culture (or national religion) permits it, this goes against God’s law. Sin is the transgression of the law, and sin has penalties.
We live in a culture where the concept of sin is either mocked, or celebrated and paraded like a trophy. So many people have a #YOLO mentality when it comes to making sinful decisions in the moment, and either ignoring the consequences or just dealing with them later.
We lament the destructive power of AIDS, yet ignore the transgression of God’s law(s) that lead to it in the first place. (How it first started and how its spread, etc…) We spend billions of dollars trying to fix our health issues, when God’s word has laws that would prevent many of them.
When people think of “sin” they think of the “big ones,” but sin includes more than just stealing and lying, etc… Sin is breaking any law of God, which laws like keeping the Sabbath (4th commandment), or physical laws like what foods to avoid, or simply avoiding unhygienic practices – all of which Jesus and his disciples abided by, with no biblical admonition to abolish such practices. Some have no direct immediate consequence, but some are more quickly evident (i.e. eating a vulture may well make you sick shortly afterwards, but luckily the bible says that’s an unclean animal and not to be eaten)
Human and divine laws are there for a reason, and whether you agree with them or not there are consequences for transgressing them. This world is unaware of many of God’s laws, but countless billions still suffer consequences for breaking them.
God makes laws for His children that are for our good. So many of us, like rebellious teenagers, feel these rules are “not fair” and no fun or deny the validity of the rules or the rulemaker. Yet these laws are not keeping us from life but rather keeping us alive. A comedian once noted that “teenagers are God’s way of seeing how we like it to have a being created in our image denying our existence” despite our loving attempts to care for the child.
So while I am not terribly happy about having to pay a speeding ticket that I earned unintentionally, I am happy to know God’s laws and the blessings that come from [trying to be] following them and avoiding the consequences that come from breaking them.