Recently I’ve encountered situations that have made me contemplate the concept of penalty. The first was about a week ago when I was putting new seat cushions on my dining room chairs and had to cut off the tags. As I was cutting off the tags, I noticed the warning,
“Under penalty of law this tag not to be removed except by the consumer.”
This brought up a memory of my childhood. Back then, I believed those tags on mattresses and pillows read, “Do not remove under penalty of death.” Of course, all of our pillows and mattresses while I was growing up continued to sport their tags. I thought this a humorous memory until I mentioned it to my husband. He shared with me that in our early years of marriage I refused to let him remove these tags as I was firmly convinced it was illegal to do so. Seriously?
The second instance to raise the idea of penalty is the Stanley Cup finals. The St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins are currently battling it out for the championship. My husband is from St. Louis and my family is from Boston. It has made for an interesting dynamic in our house this past week. (Don’t tell my son, but I am secretly rooting for the Blues as they have never taken home the Stanley Cup).
Of course, you can’t have hockey without players being sent to the penalty box. For you non-hockey fans, “The penalty box or sin bin is the area where a player sits to serve the time of a given penalty (for violation of a rule of the game), for an offence not severe enough to merit outright expulsion from the contest.” (Wikipedia)
That's interesting because throughout my childhood and early young adulthood, I felt I was living my life in and out of the penalty box. I tried hard to play by the rules and not offend anyone, however, that was an impossible standard to maintain by my own efforts. I feared that eventually I would cause an ‘offence severe enough to merit outright expulsion’ from the hopes of a ‘good life.’ It wasn’t until I was in college that I found out I didn’t have to live in dread of being sent to the penalty box. In my second year of college I accepted the truth that,
“God, in His grace, freely makes us right in His sight. He did this through Jesus Christ when He freed us from the penalty of sin.” Romans 3:24 (NLT)
Do I still deserve to be sent to the penalty box at times? Most certainly. However, Jesus has already served my penalties. Do I still live with the fear of messing up enough to merit expulsion from a life of hope and blessing? Certainly not. I live under God’s grace and have been freed from the penalty of sin.
Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go cut the tags off all my pillows and mattresses.