I was caught speeding a year or so ago, I lost concentration and didn’t realise that I was driving through Bangor at 37 mph, although I have to admit that I find it difficult to drive at 30.
I was given the choice of paying a fine plus the likelihood of points on my thus far clean driving licence, or pay a fee of £90 and attend a speed awareness course.
It was an enlightening course, demonstrating the effect on stopping distances of an extra 5 or 10 mph, but for me the big surprise was the number of hazards on our roads that go unnoticed.
We were shown a video clip of a 30-second drive down an ordinary street with ordinary goings on and asked how many hazards we could see, hazards such as a child on a bike or someone appearing to be about to dash onto the street. I think I spotted three, but when the instructor re-ran the clip there were over thirty: feet moving about under a lorry unloading its cargo, a child with a dog that might startle a cyclist. That said, I still find it hard to drive at 30 mph, so to help me focus and discipline myself I rely on my car’s cruise control. To be totally honest in a 30 mph zone I might set it for 33 or 34 mph, for I noticed at the aforementioned speed awareness course, I was the slowest offender, so I assumed that up to about 35mph it’s unlikely that any self respecting traffic officer would bother to book me. So, there was I the other day driving along the A2, on a section of the road where the speed limit is 40 mph with my cruise control set dutifully at 45 mph, when this guy driving a Masareti Grancabrio flashed past me, must have been travelling at over 60. ‘That’s not right!’ I inwardly howled.
‘Where are the traffic cops when you need them?’ and I had this conversation with an imaginary one: ‘Did you see the speed he was driving at? ‘So what speed do you think he was driving at?’ Impatiently, for in my imaginary interaction the culprit was getting away, I said, ‘Well he was well in excess of the speed limit.’ ‘How can you be sure?’ And now I’m getting annoyed, ‘Of course I can be sure, for I had my cruise control set at 45 and he whizzed past me like I was stopped. Now why don’t you pursue him?’ ‘Oh right. So you were doing 45 in a 40 zone? Can I see your licence please?’
According to the New Testament there is no hierarchy of sins, no big ones, no little ones; if you break one you’ve broken the lot. I think that’s the point of perhaps the most shocking encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees. They brought to him a woman caught in the act of adultery.
‘Moses said she should be stoned,’ they cried. ‘What say you?’ And you know the rest; ‘Let him who is without sin step forward.’ I’m always struck by what remained unsaid there, the reason why Jesus could say, ‘I do not condemn you...’ He knew that in a matter of months, he would be paying the penalty for her sin, and ironically for the sins of a different kind of her accusers too. He uniquely could see deeply behind the thoughts and motivations of both perpetrator and victim.
What encourages me in that story is that it reminds me that God knows all about my hidden murky past that I share with no one, and yet there is nothing that can come between me and his love for me. And that my friends is the Gospel.