Even though I couldn’t understand the words erupting around me, I sensed we were going to be thrown off the tram. I had arrived in Romania to serve for a year in ministry. Earlier that evening, my teammates and I had purchased tickets and boarded a tram to travel from our neighborhood to the city center. I knew just a few words in this language and had much to learn about my new community (and its transportation system). That soon became abundantly clear.
As we stepped aboard and the tram began rumbling along its tracks, I slid my thin paper ticket into the ticket puncher on a pole in the middle of the tram. My three teammates did the same. Glancing at my ticket, I realized I hadn’t aligned it exactly correctly in the puncher. I decided to punch it a second time to be sure I canceled out the right spaces on the ticket. We passed a few stops; then a ticket monitor boarded the tram. He asked to check the passengers’ tickets. One at a time, we handed ours over. Then he noticed mine had been punched twice, making it appear as if I had attempted to reuse a ticket without paying for my ride.
Fierce arguing followed. My Romanian teammate tried to explain my innocent mistake. No matter. The ticket monitor ordered us off at the next stop. My efforts to fix a problem of my own making resulted in a bigger, messier conflict.
While this incident was just a misunderstanding, it reminded me of something we try to do spiritually. We all miss the mark of following God’s good ways—we all sin. When we try to fix it, it doesn’t work. We can’t undo our sin. No amount of good things we do could ever cancel out the bad. Thankfully, our loving God is not like a harsh ticket monitor. Jesus, God in flesh, came so we could be redeemed.
When we trust in Jesus—the One who never sinned but took the punishment for our sin by dying on the cross and rising from the grave—we receive forgiveness. He exchanges our sinfulness for His righteousness. In God’s sight, it’s as if we never missed the mark. And, through the Holy Spirit, God empowers Christians to be able to live according to His good ways. But even when we mess up, we can rest knowing that our forgiveness is complete. Though none of us can undo the wrong things we’ve done, when we put our trust in Jesus, we begin a new life in Him, and He lives in us. No ticket necessary. • Allison Wilson Lee
• In light of the good news of Jesus, how could it be freeing to know we can never undo our sin?
“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21 (NIV)