OPELIKA, Ala. (BP)–As I walked into the crowded police station, children in tow, I held my head down in hopes that no one would recognize me. After all, as the owner of a restaurant as well known for sharing Jesus as it is for serving customers the best fried chicken fingers in town, I should have known better than to exceed the speed limit by 22 mph.
Shame pricked my heart as the Bible verses displayed on our restaurant walls and parking lot marquee flashed in my head. Yes, indeed, I had thrown my beliefs out the window in my mad dash home from the grocery store. Now it was time to pay the piper. I was determined to zip into the police department, pay my dues and zip out before anyone noticed me.
No such luck.
I approached the receptionist, handed her the evidence of my dirty deed, and mumbled as quietly as possible, “Yes …um …I would like to pay for this speeding ticket.”
The Whoopi Goldberg-ish lady was obviously hard of hearing. Her response could not have been any louder if it were amplified through a stadium megaphone: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you’ll have to speak up. Did you say that you needed to pay for a speeding ticket?” My face reddened from embarrassment as every head turned to behold the dangerous criminal. I longed for my pastor to glide in and rescue me from the curious stares with his famous charge, “I want every head bowed and every eye closed.” It didn’t happen.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Whoopi began to read off the details of my offence. “Mm, mm, mm, child, 57 in a 35. You sure know how to put the pedal to the metal, don’t you? What were you thinking?”
I could feel the disapproval of the audience as they glanced from me to my children, the innocent victims of the could-have-been fatal accident.
“I told her to slow down,” my youngest child announced. Great. Just great.
Shaking her head in disgust as her fingers worked to type in the information, Whoopi suddenly stopped cold. “Wait a minute,” she said as she noticed that my work number was none other than the number to her favorite restaurant, Jim Bob’s Chicken Fingers (yes, I live in Alabama). “I know you!” she gasped. “You’re Miss Jim Bob!”
I immediately moved from America’s Most Wanted to her most treasured friend. She began to celebrate my presence by announcing exactly who I was to everyone in the lobby. I knew that to pass out cold would frighten my children so I simply smiled and endured the scene this well-intending woman was creating.
Trying to put an end to the nightmare, I attempted to divert her attention back to the task at hand. “How much do I owe you?” Nice try, but no dice.
Whoopi grinned from ear to ear. “Why, we can’t have Miss Jim Bob paying for a speeding ticket! Let me see what I can do.”
While her intentions were kind, I could have crawled under a rock and died from embarrassment. Once again, I tried to take care of the debt so that I could high-tail-it out of there before more of my fellow citizens came in. “Oh, no, that’s OK,” I pleaded, “I was speeding and I should pay for the ticket.” But Whoopi would have none of it.
After summoning half of the police force over the intercom to “please report to the front desk immediately,” she explained to these uniformed law enforcers that it was a mortal sin to issue “Miss Jim Bob” a traffic citation. Amazingly, they all agreed to drop the charges. I guess all of those free leftover chicken fingers delivered to the station after closing paid off! I felt like some sort of hero as they patted my back and expressed gratitude for all of their late night snacks, compliments of Jim Bob’s. The only thing missing was a ride on their shoulders and the chant, “Hip, Hip, Hooray!”
On the ride home, I began to reflect on the significance of the situation. I was let off the hook simply because I acknowledged the police officers by serving them free food. Somehow, it didn’t seem fair. A few leftover fingers that would have been thrown out anyway hardly seemed worth the pardon they offered. It just didn’t feel right. I was tempted to whip my car around and race (within the speed limit, of course) back to the station and insist on paying the debt I owed.
Then I was reminded of another debt I owed; a debt much greater; a debt that was paid in full by the blood of Jesus Christ. “Christ also once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). It doesn’t seem fair that Jesus would pay for my sins. Yet, He did. I did nothing to deserve His pardon. Yet, He offered it anyway. The stakes to free me from debt were high. They cost Him his very life. He willingly suffered and died so that I would not have to. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
I was pardoned from my sin and let off the hook from the penalty simply because I accepted His offer: I acknowledged Jesus as my Lord and Savior and asked His forgiveness. “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). To reject His payment and insist on paying it myself would be a slap in His face. I graciously accept and appreciate His payment on my behalf. I am eternally grateful for the expensive price that Jesus Christ paid in order to cancel my debt.
I think I’ll let Whoopi and all my friends at the police department pardon my debt there, too! Why not?
Ginger Plowman is a speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries, teaching on biblical parenting across the country. For more information visit her website at www.gingerplowman.com.