To Each According to His Need


This week, I witnessed a minor auto accident.  I was in the parking lot of the probation and parole offices in the town where I live when a medium-sized car hit the bumper of a truck.  Initially, I thought the truck had backed into the car but then saw no driver in the larger vehicle.  The car proceeded to drive away thought there was obvious damage inflicted.  I got the license number of the car and gave it to the owner of the truck when he arrived on the scene unaware of the event.  As it turned out, the truck belonged to a probation officer, and the auto was driven by one under supervision.  In short order, the driver of the car was contacted and cited by police.  Happily, the woman had insurance, and the officer was burdened with only the aggravation of getting his truck fixed and not the financial responsibility.

I thought about the woman who had caused the incident.  She did not intend to create a problem for herself or another that day in that manner.  It was an accident.  Probably, it was caused by inattentiveness (at first) but no worse.  I considered how she was already in trouble and had made things even worse by the day’s events.  In truth, she was the cause of the negative happenings, but she didn’t need any more troubles in her life.  She was guilty but had made herself a victim, as well.  And, this was a person who didn’t need any more difficulties.  Her plate was full.  I felt sorry for her.  There are many people who elicit sympathy though they have forged their own bonds.  In ways, that is true of all of us, and we each hope that someone will understand and care for us in our calamity.

Even as I mused, I reminded myself that the woman’s actions after the fender-bender signaled a deficit in character.  Then again, she was panicked, and fear brings out our worst selves.  I considered that the consequences of the incident had greater repercussions for her than for the aggrieved party.  Sure, the officer would have had the unfortunate insurance dealings and some out of pocket costs, but he was better prepared to endure those things than the miscreant her consequences.  What if I’d let her merely drive away?  This is the type thing our government deals with all the time.  To its discredit our system often sides with the perpetrators of misdeeds or recklessness because they are already impoverished and hands the bill to those who have made better life choices and can handle harm more easily.

I have struggled with grace and truth throughout my life.  While I’ve set high personal goals, I have yet to attain them in significant degree.  I have often been unsure of how to deal with others in their fallenness.  Is it right to have lofty ideals?  In what measure should grace be extended, and does it even apply to me?  The turmoil has been profound.  I have found my sincerest efforts to be lacking in mercy and constraint.  Sentimentality has seldom found common ground with severity.  It’s easy to follow the path of feelings to ends of unaccountability or unilateral perdition.  The plain fact is that there are poles of tension between our goals of righteousness and recovery.  It is precisely the fall from grace which has rendered us incapable of dispensing joy and justice.  We choose between the two. 

God has mercy on us all, but does not excuse our wrongdoings.  It is marvelous in our eyes that the Almighty has the wisdom to do both simultaneously without error.  It will be easier for us to comprehend (however imperfectly) mysterious actions and attitudes of the Lord if we cooperate with Him in the things we do understand.  Truth is not an ethereal thing determined by fiat, but has foundational precepts which may be unveiled over time.  It is not easy to divine a clear path in murky relativistic days such as our own, but there is a hallowed ground on which we may stand if we give ourselves to the knowledge of God.  Our own foibles may well obstruct our way in the pursuit of truth.  The question we face is whether we are willing to being our concerns to God’s revelation or simply drive away.


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