Seattle traffic is the worst! I’ve lived in or near Minneapolis, New York City, Chicago and Seattle, and I stand by that statement. Seattle traffic is the worst. They have one main highway running north and south, the I-5. When I lived in Seattle I would get stuck in traffic all the time. You just never knew how to plan for it. Don’t get me wrong, there are the usually busy rush hour times and you could try to avoid those, but I have been stuck in traffic at 10 AM on Sunday morning and 2 AM on Tuesday.
When I would be driving to or from work, I’d have to sit on the ramp waiting for metered lights to turn green. While I would be sitting there I’d look over at the carpool lane. Those people didn’t have to wait to get on the highway, they would just pass all of us who didn’t have two or more people in their car. Every time and I mean every single time, that I would be sitting there waiting to get on I-5, I would count the number of people who only had one person in the car and would still take the carpool lane to avoid the wait. It would make me so mad. I would be sitting there thinking, “I just hope there is a cop there, I hope there’s a sting. I hope they all get tickets!”
Some of you might be reading this and agreeing with me. There is something perceived as righteous in wanting people to obey the rules and thinking it’s ok for people to pay for their sinful actions. However, if you knew me, you’d know that when I am on the highway I am driving 6 miles over the speed limit. You’d know when I come to a stop sign I have a bad habit of rolling through them. And if you were all-knowing, you would even know that I’ve been guilty of taking the carpool lane when I was behind on time (did you catch me justifying it there?).
There is something inside that tells us when we do something wrong it’s understandable or justifiable. We know what we did was wrong, but we justify it and if we do get caught, we look for grace. We like grace. I should say, we love it and perhaps even think we deserve it. But when it comes to other people, like those who drive solo in the carpool lane, we want justice for them. Mercy for me, justice for them.
This is Prodigal Son Older Brother Syndrome at its finest. Remember his words to his father, “‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.” The older brother looks to his record, to his scorecard, to his stat line to remind the father and others of how great he is. The older brother is very quick to forget his mistakes and convict his brother. (Luke 15:25-32)
This is us. This is the church. We quickly forget the sweet taste of forgiveness. We quickly forget how much we have been gifted. Christianity is about forgiveness for the sake of Christ. Yet often, we who have been forgiven much are sitting around expecting much from others. We have moved from a place where we desire to see people live in forgiveness to a place where we want justice and judgment.
Once Jesus was sitting next to a man with strong older brother tendencies. Jesus said to him, “Simon two men are in debt, one owes $500 denarii and the other $50. Neither can afford to pay the lender back, so he forgives both of their debts. Which one will love him more?” Simon responded, “I suppose the one who was forgiven more.” Jesus then agrees with him. (Luke 7:36-50)
Jesus asked Simon this parable because of how Simon viewed a certain woman. Simon wanted her to be treated according to her actions and reputation. He even went a step further and judged Jesus for allowing her to be so close to Him. This remains a problem among us today. We judge people from the carpool lane or our property line. This is not Jesus. Jesus knew his life, death and resurrection were meant to redeem the world from a universal corruption of sin. When it was his right to give us all justice and what we deserve, he gave us the opposite, he gave us grace.
Jesus found himself surrounded by sinners all the time. May the Lord lead us to people who are likewise burdened by sin, so we can proclaim the forgiveness, righteousness, and grace he has so richly poured out for those in the carpool lane and traffic jam alike.