Some of you NASCAR fans probably watched this past Sunday’s Penzoil 400 in Las Vegas. Joey Logano held on to win the race in an exciting last lap over teammate Brad Kezlowski. If you did watch the race you saw Kyle Larson penalized during a pit stop. During a stop a team is only allowed 5 men “over the wall” to help service the car … change tires, make adjustments, add fuel, clean, etc. But Larson’s team was penalized because an extra crew member leaned over the wall and put his hand on the ground, which by letter of the law is a clear violation of the rule. That may sound silly, but rules are rules.
On Monday I watched a debate between 3 commentators on the legitimacy of the penalty. Was is right? Was it fair? Did it constitute cheating? Was is necessary? Did it give Larson a competitive advantage? These and other questions were debated at length. But some of the very best comments were made by former NASCAR driver, Jeff Burton. He made a couple of great points. First, he said there’s a problem with rules; rules require more rules because people will pick them apart and look for loopholes to gain an advantage. So to counter the creative loophole maneuvering by various teams they have to continually establish more rules to make sure the existing rules are followed. But he added a second vital truth; rules are necessary and must be upheld strictly. Rules can’t be flexible and applied in one case and ignored in another case because it just seemed like a nice thing to do. If you have rule, you have to abide by them perfectly or suffer the consequences.
Preach on, Brother Jeff! These comments could have easily been made in a discussion about law and Gospel. The law is necessary … very necessary. But they also must be strictly upheld, even perfectly obeyed or else they aren’t really rules. It would be injustice to apply the rules to some and not to others, just because someone might not have gotten much of an advantage by breaking the rule. Rules are rules, law is law, and perfect obedience is required or else a penalty must be assessed to the law-breaker. But rules / law has a problem. In order to insure that the law is maintained and upheld, we need to constantly create new laws. Our fallen nature gets very creative in looking for ways to circumvent rules, to bypass laws, or justify our rule-breaking. Thus, we need more and better laws to push us toward a more certain obedience.
Thankfully our eternal destiny and relationship with God isn’t based merely on rules and laws. While these laws are vital in showing us how we should live as well as how far short we fall of obedience, the law has absolutely no power to save us. Rather, the law points us to our desperate need of a Savior.
While the Scripture does describe the Christian life as a race, we need to pause and give thanks that our finishing the race in first place hinges on the performance of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He’s won it already! He obeyed every rule perfectly and has paid the penalty for our many violations of the rules. We join Him in the eternal victory lane and enjoy the prize He has won for us.