Parking Space Violators
Does your supermarket have reserved parking spaces for families? They’re the wider spots, closer to the store entrance, so parents can load and unload their kids with less hassle and wrestle them for a shorter walk than normal!
You can identify these family spaces by painted icons of a parent and child or a stroller. You can also identify the people who willfully violate the rules; they’re the cars with no car seats or booster seats in the back!
These parking space violators didn’t forget they had no kids with them today, nor did they somehow miss seeing the massive icon indicating a reserved space. They knowingly and willfully chose to park there because they wanted the ease and convenience of fitting into a bigger space or walking less of a distance.
Another definition for this act is transgression, an explanatory word that David uses to capture one aspect of the doctrine of sin. He mentions it three times in Psalm 51:
“According to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions (v. 1) […] For I know my transgressions (v. 3) […] Then I will teach transgressors your ways (v. 13).”
Transgression is a high-handed rebellion, a rejection of the governing authority and its established law. When we transgress, we replace the existing authority, install ourselves as supreme, and rewrite the laws.
This parking transgression might be frustrating for parents, but relatively innocent. Not so for spiritual transgression! Spiritual transgressors choose to disobey God because there is something more important, at least at that moment, than loving, serving, and obeying God.
1 John 2:15 captures this well: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
Or, consider the stinging words of rebuke found in the book of Jeremiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore?” (3:6)
Read Jeremiah 3 in its entirety later; it’s a passage that is raw and hard to digest. But the message is clear: every act of transgression is an act of spiritual adultery at the most profound heart level.
Transgression is not just breaking an abstract set of regulations; transgression is an act of vertical unfaithfulness. We first commit adultery in our relationship with God, which then leads us to break his commands.
Transgression is about forsaking our allegiance to God and offering the deepest affection of our hearts to other lovers.
Even if you have never committed marital infidelity like David, all of us are guilty of spiritual infidelity. Vertical adultery lives in the heart of every sinner. None of us has been perfectly faithful to God. All of us have run after other lovers.
Maybe it’s giving our eyes to pornography. Maybe it’s cheating on our taxes. Maybe it’s being bitter and unforgiving in our marriage. Maybe it’s being harsh and impatient with our children. Maybe it’s patterns of gluttony. Maybe it’s subtle racial animosity. Maybe it’s greed and materialism. Maybe it’s patterns of gossip. Maybe it’s worship of success and status.
Yesterday, you stepped over the boundaries of God’s law. Today, you will be tempted to give your heart away. Tomorrow and every day until eternity, we will battle with transgression.
So the next time you see a parking space that you’re not allowed to park in, remember the word transgression. And remember the invitation from God to repent:
“Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever.”
Our hope will never be found in our ability to stop transgressing. Our hope is only in the grace of the One who, on our behalf, was perfectly faithful in every way. His righteousness and his forgiveness invite us to live forever with him in glory.
Paul David Tripp
1. As you think about your life, where are the areas where you’ve replaced God’s authority and installed yourself as the supreme authority to rewrite his laws? Be specific. When are the times when you find yourself in a position that’s easy to abandon your affection for God and instead pursue loving something you find, at least in the moment, more important?
2. In reference to 1 John 2:15, why can’t love for the world and love for God occupy the same space in your heart? In what parts of your life are you like Israel from Jeremiah 3:6? Take a moment to consider your weekly routine, thought patterns, and relational interactions, and write down those areas.
3. If transgression is an act of vertical unfaithfulness, how does that help you to reevaluate the “little sins” in your life? Why aren’t those sins little at all?
4. If all of us are guilty of spiritual infidelity against God, offering the deepest affection of our hearts to other lovers, why isn’t shame or simply stopping our transgressing the answer? Why is true hope only found in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is Jesus’ perfect faithfulness the only place to turn to when we come face to face with our past, present, and future unfaithfulness?
5. If Christ continually invites you into his forgiveness and righteousness, even now as a Christian, what is stopping you from saying “yes” to his invitation right now? When God calls to you (as he does in Jeremiah 3:12) to return to him, what gets in the way of your intentional movement back to him? Why is there always hope in throwing yourself on the mercy of the One who is merciful?