Human sin should never be funny, but on “Parking Wars” on “A&E” (10 PM ET on Tuesdays) it is pretty hilarious. I love the show. I also think it is a perfect illustration of human attitudes toward sin. Watch it sometime and see what I mean. There are few illustrations of human depravity, about human attitudes toward sin, that are clearer than those you will see on Parking Wars.
Parking Wars takes place mostly in Philadelphia, though they also go to Detroit and other cities. It follows three aspects of the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA). Parking enforcement officers walk the streets and give tickets to people parked illegally. Then, the “booters” go out and put boots on cars that have racked up multiple tickets and heavy fines. Finally, they go to the impound lot where people come to retrieve cars that have been booted and towed.
And at every step of the way these people demonstrate typical human attitudes toward sin.
1) I should be allowed to do as I please!
The parking laws in Philadelphia are pretty well posted and yet people continue to ignore those laws. “This is a childcare facility – the laws shouldn’t apply here.” “I was making a delivery, the law shouldn’t apply to me.
When Satan tempted Adam and Eve, he implied that God was unfair to place restrictions on them. He gasped that God was so cruel that he limited their access to one tree. God’s goodness was turned into cruelty by Satan’s lies. God is so good to us, and yet we often see his laws as an unwelcome hindrance to our freedom. Instead of focusing on God’s goodness, we look at his laws as impositions, as oppressive.
We need to remember that thought God is good, he is also the rightful creator and ruler. The city of Philadelphia has the right to make and enforce parking laws. The God of Heaven has the right to be Lord of all, even our daily lives.
2) My sins aren’t so bad!
When the PEOs (parking enforcement officers) write tickets, they hear this one pretty often. “There are drug dealers and murderers out there, why are you picking on me?” “Don’t you have some real criminals you could catch?” They are not claiming that they are innocent, just that in comparison to others, they aren’t so bad.
We all would like to think that God grades on a curve. I will admit to a shocking secret right now. I enjoy watching “The Sopranos” (also on A&E in reruns, with the sex, nudity and cussing cut out). Don’t hate me. But I find the premise of the show interesting. Tony Soprano is a brutal killer who makes his living through gambling, prostitution, graft and other forms of corruption. But he is a “good man” we are often told. He is not as bad as others, not as bad as the really bad people. We love to justify our sin by comparing it to the sins of others.
But God does not grade on a curve. In the grand scheme of things, I’m not such a bad guy. I have never cheated on or beat my wife. I pay my bills and my taxes. I’ve raised four kids who are productive members of society. But I also know my heart, and I know that I have fallen short of God’s glory and deserve his judgment.
I have never, to my knowledge, met someone who claims to be sinless. Everyone will admit to their failings and flaws. Its comforting, in a way. “I’m only human.” But there is no real comfort in this. We have all sinned and cannot attain the righteousness of Christ on our own. We may comfort ourselves that we are better than others, but we all fall short of God’s standard.
3) “Kill the Messenger”
I pity the parking enforcement officers and the boot patrol. They are simply doing their jobs and enforcing the laws, but the abuse heaped on them by the citizens of the city is brutal. They are called names. They are ridiculed. They receive the single finger salute on a regular basis. I’m amazed at the patience and imperturbability of most of these PPA workers. They respond with kindness as citizens abuse them for enforcing the law.
One of the fundamental mistakes the modern church makes is trying to make the gospel palatable. It is an offense. Think about our message:
You are (like all people) a sinner who has flaunted the laws of God and is guilty before him. Because of your sins, you are under the wrath of God and destined for eternal hell. And there is nothing you can do about it. No religion. no charity work, no kind deeds will erase the guilt of your sin before God. But Jesus Christ did what you could not do. He lived a perfect life and earned the glories of heaven. Jesus paid for your sins on the cross and rose from the grave. If you will repent of your sins and trust Jesus Christ with your life, you will die to the life you had and be raised to a new life which is devoted to God.
That is offensive. It is also true. We can be kind and tactful, but our message is an offense. We slap people in the face with a truth they do not want to hear. No one want to see the officer writing a ticket that will enforce the penalties of the law. No one wants to hear the message of sin and redemption. But it is our job to proclaim that message nonetheless.
I believe there is a place for cultural sensitivity and relevance. There is no reason we need to be obnoxious or self-righteous as we share our message. But if we try to remove the offense of the gospel we will ultimately compromise the gospel itself.
4) I Shouldn’t Have to Pay!
Everyone thinks the fine are unfair. “Okay, I violated the law, but I shouldn’t have to pay the fine.” I have to admit, I think the Philadelphia fines are a little bit excessive. But the fines are set and they have to be paid.
Human beings do not like to consider the fact that they are going to face God’s judgment. We go about our lives trying to have a good time and get ahead. It is easy to forget that there is a unalterable appointment with eternity that awaits each of us.
Our sins have to be paid for. If we repent of our sins and trust Jesus Christ, we accept his payment of our fine, our debt. Jesus paid it all. But if one does not trust Christ, he must pay the full debt of sin and that is too horrible to imagine.
In Philadelphia, if you want your car back from the impound lot, you have to make sure that all the fees and fines have been paid. In the same way, your sin must be paid for – every bit of it.
Thank God that Christ offered himself to pay that debt.