I received a speeding ticket the other day. For anyone who knew me before I became a Christian or during my time as a baby Christian, me receiving a speeding ticket will come as no surprise. I might as well have been given the nickname "Jehu" (see 2 Kings 9:20). I definitely inherited the lead foot from my mother, but that is no excuse. Thankfully, aggressive driving is something I am increasingly suppressing. And, while it does not change the fact that I was breaking the law, with all four of the speeding tickets I have received in the past 16 years, I was going less than 50 MPH.
I remember engaging in a discussion/debate on this very issue with my youth pastor shortly after I came to faith in Christ. While he won the debate right then and there, it took several years for my stubborn heart to be penetrated and softened. I finally came to the conviction that, yes, speeding is a sin. Now, that does not mean I am completely victorious over the sin, as proven by my continued occasional speeding tickets. But now it is something I confess to God and thank Him for forgiving. I no longer deny it or seek to justify it.
Romans 13:1-2 says, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." Similarly, 1 Peter 2:13 says, "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men..." Simply put, we are to obey the government and the laws it institutes, because God has instituted government to maintain order in the world. The only instance the Bible gives in which it is right to disobey the government is if the government writes a law that violates the Word of God. We are to "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).
The last time I checked, and believe me I have checked, the Bible does not say we have the freedom to drive at whatever speed we desire. The government setting a speed limit does not in any way violate God's Word. So we are to obey the speed limit laws the government sets. Is it inherently a sin to drive a car at any particular speed? No, it is not. Driving at 85, 95, or 105 MPH is not a sin in and of itself. It only becomes a sin when there is a law requiring a lower speed. Again, if there is a law, we are to submit to it (Romans 13:1-2).
I recently engaged in an email dialogue with a questioner on this very issue. It reminded me of my debate with my youth pastor 20 years ago, except with the roles reversed. He stated, "If it is a sin to speed, then it is also a sin to follow another car too closely, or to drive over a solid white line, or to not come to a complete stop at a stop sign." It surprised him when I said it was also a sin to violate those other traffic laws. The Bible gives no other "out" from Romans 13 than a direct violation of God's Word. Romans 13 does not disappear from the Bible when there are no police officers present, or when you are driving at night, or when some other driver is making your daily commute take longer (the reason for my most recent speeding ticket).
The questioner's next response was interesting, and definitely caused me to think. He asked, "Are we supposed to memorize every law on the books so that we know everything we are not supposed to do?" It seems to me that we should be reasonably aware and informed of the laws that impact our lives. If we are aware of a law, we should obey it. However, ignorance of a law is not an excuse. While God makes a distinction between those who sin in ignorance and those who sin willfully (Numbers 15:27-31), both are still sins.
At the same time, going through your day while obsessing over obeying each and every law is not a healthy way to live the Christian life. I do not think God wants us to be checking our speedometers every two seconds to make sure we are not exceeding the speed limit. I do not think God expects us to get our speedometers calibrated to ensure that they are not actually 1 MPH off, causing us to exceed the speed limit unknowingly.
No, that is where mercy comes in. Our legal system allows for mercy. Police officers are not required to ticket people who are breaking traffic laws. They can show mercy. Far beyond the legal system though, God is a God of grace and mercy. If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, ALL of your sins are forgiven. We are not supposed to live our lives worrying about sin. We are to live our lives out of gratitude for the salvation and forgiveness God has provided. We are to avoid sin because we love God, not out of fear, guilt, or a desire to escape punishment.
Strive to obey the law. When you discover that you have broken the law, confess it to God, thank Him for already having forgiven it, ask Him for help in overcoming it—and then continue down the road God has placed you on (obeying the speed limit of course).