Penelope Soto is doing 30 days in a county jail because she needed to learn a hard lesson. The odd thing is that many are shocked by that reality. The reaction her case says something about where we are as a culture. Watch for yourself
It might be nervous laughter but it continues even after she’s warned by the judge. When a judge says “We’re not in a club. Be serious about it.” It behooves one to be serious. But she wasn’t. She seemed incapable of grasping the gravity of the situation until the judge doubled her bond. Then, of course, you saw what happened.
Her reaction to the bond suggests that she wasn’t stoned. She just couldn’t imagine a circumstance in which she was not the sole arbiter of reality. The judge was willing to forebear with her but only so far. He has an office to uphold. Whatever she thought, however, whatever she was experiencing was not ultimate. Her experience did not trump objective reality: She was in a prison uniform, standing before a judge who had power to demand payment and to sentence her to jail.
Her actions, her choices put her in jail. A human judge is frail and sinful and, if he is honest with himself, he knows it. This judge did appear to take himself too seriously but there are limits. Jesus said,
And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, nyou will never get out until you have paid the very last penny (Luke 12:57–59).
That’s the nature of justice. “Do this and live.” Scripture uses that very setting as a way of illustrating God’s holiness and justice. If a human judge must demand respect for an office, how much more must God demand and deserve it.
We live in what we might call an OMG culture. I remember being rebuked by a neighbor boy because I took the Lord’s name in vain. In my conscience I knew he was right. I didn’t know why I knew he was right but I knew that he was right and I hated him for it. I hated that there God is unyielding and that his standard must be satisfied. Today it is difficult to imagine anyone remonstrating with someone else for profaning the Lord’s name. Even the very idea of “profaning” something seems foreign to us now, doesn’t it? That’s how far we’ve descended into darkness in 40 years. At this moment, millions of people, some of them professing Christians, are saying and texting “OMG!” without the slightest bit of embarrassment.
Perhaps a refresher course is in order? In the Heidelberg Catechism we confess:
99. What is required in the third Commandment?
That we must not by cursing, or by false swearing, nor yet by unnecessary oaths, profane or abuse the name of God; nor even by our silence and connivance be partakers of these horrible sins in others; and in sum, that we use the Holy Name of God in no other way than with fear and reverence, so that He may be rightly confessed and worshipped by us, and be glorified in all our words and works.
100. Is the profaning of God’s name, by swearing and cursing, so grievous a sin, that His wrath is kindled against those also who do not help as much as they can to hinder and forbid the same?
Yes truly, for no sin is greater and more provoking to God than the profaning of His name; wherefore He even commanded it to be punished with death.
Nothing about the New Testament diminishes the holiness of God one whit. Hebrews 12:28–29 comes to mind:
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
There is a fixed reality. There are fixed, unyielding moral laws to which every human who has ever lived will give account. Such truth is hard to hear in an OMG culture.
We all of us have treated God the way Ms Soto treated this judge. We are all, by nature, in jeopardy of rather more than 30 days in county lock up.
Of course the bad news is only half of the story. There is Gospel truth, good news for us rebels. God the Son, who understood the nature of divine justice more profoundly than we could ever do, entered into court for us and offered his righteousness and stood our punishment for us. All that he has done is credited to all who believe.
Those of us who have been given the gifts of new life, faith, and through faith, union with Christ must now live as those who’ve been delivered from judgment. We live in a reality-denying, OMG culture but we’re to be distinct from it. We are children of light (1Thess 5:5), not children of darkness. In the dark it’s possible to deceive one’s self about reality, to pretend that things are other than they are. In the light, for those who can see, reality, including the holiness of God, is plain to see.