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She broke the law

April 13, 2012

On April 10th, Miranda Clark, a Russell, Kansas teenager was lining up to run a 1600 meter race for her high school in an invitational track meet.  As she was getting ready to start she remembered that she still had her tiny ear studs in after her recent ear piercing.  Knowing that wearing jewelry in a sporting event was banned by Kansas high school rules, but feeling that the piercing required she keep the studs in, she hastily placed a small piece of adhesive tape over each of them.

As she crossed the finish line in the race she was approached by a race official who asked her what was beneath the tape on her ears.  She confessed that she had the ear studs in.  The official promptly declared her guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct and disqualified her from that race and the entire meet, rendering her unable to complete in the later 3200 meter event.  Needless to say she broke into tears.

As word spread around the stadium people were outraged about so harsh a punishment for so small an offense but the officials stood firm.  Subsequent appeals to the high school athletic association leaders also fell on deaf ears.  The story has gone viral, outrage and indignation has welled up across the land, but nothing has changed, rules are rules.

No matter what we think about this seemingly harsh application of rules to a small infraction the whole matter illustrates an important reality in our need for grace.  The law is the law.  Scripture tells us that if we violate even the smallest portion we are guilty of the whole law.  If our violation is no greater that taped over ear studs we are disqualified from heaven.  How grateful I am for the grace of God; for the assurance that I am qualified, not on my efforts, but through the cross of Christ.

It is interesting too that Clark’s anger is focused on how unfair the punishment was.  Her offense was, in her eyes, tiny and her punishment was so harsh.  The viral outrage tells me that many others feel the same way.  I certainly agree that her case is sad and wish it were not so but it is clear that the rule does not give exceptions so I can see why it was applied.

But running through the whole story is another truth.  All the outrage, all the protests, was based not on an attempt to show the rule was wrong but that this infraction was an exception.  But the rule book, like the laws God gave us, doesn’t give exceptions.  What people were yearning for in this case was grace, even though they did not use that term.

I am convinced that the yearning for grace is embedded in every human heart.  We want grace when we hurt the ones we love.  We want grace when the economy forces us to lose our jobs.  We want grace when sorrow and heartache come to us.  We are like Cain after God confronts him about killing his brother Abel.  We cry “my punishment is more than I can bear.”  And yes, so very often, our cry is expressed in terms of unfairness.

Christian brothers and sisters, our calling as ambassadors of Christ is to lovingly tell others that we offer them so much more than fairness; that fairness alone will never erase the heartache they feel.  Grace alone is sufficient and we know where they can get it.

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From → Christianity

2 Comments
  1. jessop permalink

    I like your thought about grace but I am not so sure about this:
    “Scripture tells us that if we violate even the smallest portion we are guilty of the whole law. If our violation is no greater that taped over ear studs we are disqualified from heaven.” We are guilty of the whole Law, yes, but I think we miss out on abundant life here on earth — as she missed out on the rest of the Sports meeting — but heaven in the hereafter is still there through grace if the attitude of resentment is not hardened against God, in which case we will keep ourselves out of heaven. But I know what you mean.

    • Thanks for your comment. Actually I think you and I agree. The result of the girl’s infraction was a loss to her but the real suffering that she, and her family, had was the bitterness that persists in the aftermath of this ruling. And this is the human response, our feeling that it is “unfair” and wanting to be excused on our own terms.

      With us and God, forgiveness and restoration is always available through His grace, you are correct. But we can have the same longing to be found not guilty through our own efforts and not simply receive the grace of God.

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