|Not the sign that got me, but a typical example.|
Right outside my office window is a service drive, with several signs predicting Armageddon if you park there. I do from time to time if I simply have to run to my office and pick up or drop off something, and no more. This past Saturday afternoon, I needed to get my laptop on my way out of town for a family birthday. While in my office, nature called on the red phone, and in fear and trembling I hurried to the little chemist’s room. Sure enough, when I returned to my vehicle, the service drive was flowing with the blood of the damned, a $75 parking citation. On campus!
In my opinion, the Uni’s Parking and Transportation Services (PTS) is aptly named, if you understand “service” in the context of a farmer servicing his bull and herd. The rules are without mercy, and if you are caught, the penalty is severe. They are completely self-funded—based on citation revenue, $500 annual parking permits, plus other fees and costs recovery. Thus, it is in their best interest to fine first and laugh at appeals. Yes, I am bitter and frustrated, not the most Biblical of attitudes.
Yet, it captures the way many people view God and His holiness: arbitrary, on a power trip, a killjoy, no mercy, delighting in the pain, suffering and frustration of basically good people. Many are embittered and frustrated, believing God can’t be a God of love if He’ll punish people all out of proportion when the smallest toe creeps the narrowest nanometer over a line even thinner and maybe in motion.
PTS’ mission is to provide and maintain an orderly transportation environment on campus, yet the ruthlessness of their money-grubbing enforcement is difficult to take. God needs nothing—He does not seek our wealth to meet His lack. Neither are His rules arbitrary. His law is based on His character—the things He allows are allowed and encouraged because they are consistent with who He is. The things He forbids are prohibited because they are contrary to His character.
This universe is His—He created it and maintains it. He delights to share it with us and made it for us, but it is still His. Just as you would not allow either your children or tenants in your own home to act in a way contrary to your character and house rules, it is appropriate for God to expect His house rules to be followed, and failure to honor them is grounds for eviction. The fact that sometimes He seems to be an absent landlord is no reason to ignore His standards.
A further, joyful difference is that mercy can be found, and is eagerly offered, if we will take it. That is the Gospel. Christ came and paid our fine, allowing us to look past the law of God and see the person of God, and Him to look past our lawbreaking and see His children.
Sigh, even though PTS is not God, and their law is far worse than His, I parked where it was not allowed, and though the consequences were much steeper than I expected, I am on the hook for them. I still plan to appeal, even just to ask that the fine be reduced, but I will pay. I’m not happy about it, but it is the right thing to do. Perhaps they will reduce the fine, if I ask nicely…and they don’t find this post.