All too often, I have to translate the sentencing for drunk drivers. Those six-packs “on sale” turn out to be quite expensive. It’s not unusual to see a six-pack on sale for $6.00, and “a 12 pack” for $9.00. But when sentenced for drunk-driving, that one six-pack moves from a good deal to a massive bill. In fact, it’s about 3,654 times more expensive!
As a basis for the imposition of the fines, the District Attorney spells out the requirement of the law. The fine for driving under the influence is $1,660.00. Furthermore, there are other fines and fees: $434.08 for booking fees, $150.00 for damages, $500.00 for wearing an electronic ankle bracelet for 30 days (instead of going to jail), $540.00 for a nine-month alcohol awareness class, and $300.00 for a high blood alcohol level. Altogether, one DUI results in a fine of $3,654.08.
But wait. There’s more.
One time while translating in court, one particular offender showed up responding to his second DUI offense. The first had been on a Friday night when he was coming back after “just a few drinks with my buddies.” The second happened just two nights later on his way home from a birthday party. In this case, the District Attorney didn’t need to use her calculator to multiply times two. She announced the total from memory: $7,308.16! There was no way for the man to fight the case. The alcohol breathalyzer results had come back between .19 and .26 percent. The limit is .08 percent blood alcohol content. The offender was given three years to pay the fine, broken into monthly payments of $203.00. Yet he was earning only $800.00 a month working in the agricultural fields while trying to support a family of three children. Just before he was sentenced, his public defender asked him, “Are any of your drinking buddies present in court to state they will help you pay the fine, or at least to tell you they will chip in to help with your family’s expenses? Is there anyone who’s going to take it in the chin for your drinking habit?” The attorney stressed the last question to maximize the effect of the sentencing. In return, the offender offered nothing more than a negative gesture from the slight lateral movement of his head.
But the judge in God’s judgment seat does not recognize any hardened, incorrigible, nor impenitent sinners, no matter how high our sinful nature corruption content). The Law condemns all humanity to the max, and yet God’s grace is given precisely for those who live at this max.
Thus, God’s grace is extended to the incorrigible alcoholic as well as to us, the more sophisticated sinners and drunks.
“For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all… God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them…God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (1 Tim. 2:5, 6; 2 Cor.5:19, 21).
We may feel righteous indignation against the drunk driver in court, but before God, we are no different. God looks into the DNA of our hearts and measures our extremely high level of lust, envy, pious pride, even intellectual, religious pride. We may hide it well, but inside we get irritated over trivialities, and in our heads, we are constantly suing someone for some minor or large grievances. We always want to save face, even at the expense of others. We are drunk on our own pride and selfishness – and what’s worse, we are not even aware of it.
As the drunk insists he’s not an alcoholic, we maintain we are not quite as bad as somebody else. And with that simple, fleeting thought we’ve done nothing but admit our guilt before God. Thus, God’s grace is extended to the incorrigible alcoholic as well as to us, the more sophisticated sinners and drunks. His grace is nothing less than the beauty, purity, and holiness of His Son Jesus Christ imputed to us by the faith born by the hearing of the Gospel. Such righteousness is yours and mine to be received with the gifts of open hands and faith, even faith as tiny as that of a fleeting, atomic particle! We are called to confess faith in Christ’s perfect love for us, shown to us through His broken body and shed blood, no matter how drunk we are on our sin!
But there’s more. He did show up in court and took it on the chin for us, in fact, He died for us. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed…the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:5,6 NIV).