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Last weekend I finally received my Italian driver license. For the longest time I was in no rush to get it. I had an international driver license from AAA when we first arrived in Italy and was given the impression by an American friend, who had driven for years here with only his American license, that if I were pulled over by police the lack of an Italian license would be something they would most likely treat with indifference or, at the most, warn me of my need to get it. I lived blissfully in ignorance of the law, half-trusting in the unsubstantiated claims of a friend and half-determined to getting an Italian license eventually, just in case.

In June I had an accident on my scooter. Fortunately no one was injured and as a result I looked into the driving laws a little more seriously. To my dismay I learned that residents driving without an Italian license are committing an offense subject to fines and if one is found guilty of driving without a valid license twice within a year it could lead to arrest and confiscation of the vehicle for up to three months. I was suddenly very motivated. I learned that I had a year from the time I received my residence in Verona and had until November to get my license.

The license process in Italy is quite rigorous. I started driving school in June, which consisted of an hour lesson three nights per week for seven weeks. In August, as is the case for many businesses in Italy, the driving school took a pause so that I could not schedule my driving theory exam until September. When the school opened again the earliest I could schedule the theory exam was October and then the law requires waiting 32 days before taking the driving exam, during which 6 driving lessons are required by law. There are 40 questions on the theory exam and one is allowed to miss a maximum of 4 of them. The questions can be quite subtle and sometimes very obscure, and if not for having taken over 400 practice quizzes I’m sure I would not have passed it. In fact, many of my Italian friends have told me they did not pass their first time taking the theory exam. The whole process is time-consuming, expensive, bureaucratic, stressful, demanding, and very necessary to drive legally as a resident in Italy.

The fear I experienced upon first reading the law and learning of the penalty for breaking it made quite an impression. I saw within my response to man-made laws the purpose to which God designed his moral law; that is knowledge of sin and motivation to prevent a soul from falling on the wrong side of his justice.

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul” Psalm 19:7

“for by the law is the knowledge of sin” Romans 3:20

Unfortunately many people live in ignorance of their sin and its offense to a holy God. Some take refuge in opinions regarding salvation from a college professor, religious scholar, or some “expert” found on the internet without any regard for “thus saith the LORD,” all the while conforming their idea of “god” to the image they’ve created from intellect and imagination. Surely, they reason, if God does exist, they have not done anything to merit his wrath and judgment.

Often the Lord uses circumstances to grab someone’s attention regarding the brevity of life and their need for him, that they might have hearts honest towards God and open to the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. As ambassadors for Christ one of our responsibilities is to use the moral law written upon the conscience of man and allow it to do its proper work “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). The Law, after all, is a “schoolmaster” that warns us of the seriousness of our sin and our need for Christ, that “we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).

My analogy of earning my license fails in this respect. The only one who has been capable of completing the rigorous demands of the Law is Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). We have no part in earning our salvation. If salvation is based on some element of “trying” then it is not based on “trusting” and the faith coupled with works nullifies total dependence on God for salvation. Since mankind is fallible, all works produced by man, whether moral or spiritual or physical, are flawed and imperfect. We need a substitute.

I have another American friend in Italy who received a traffic ticket in the mail. Besides owing a fine he needed to provide his Italian license number because his infraction required a deduction of 3 points from his license. He did not have an Italian driver license. In fear of the law he went to a friend who is a captain in the police force. His friend offered a solution. He had never had a traffic violation and thus never had any points deducted from his perfect record. In spite of this he willingly took the place of his friend by signing his name on the ticket and providing his license number. The points were thus taken from his perfect record and his friend was free from the penalty of the law. Much the same way the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ, was made “to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). He willingly took our place as the Friend of sinners and “signed” his name on our “ticket” with his own blood and “redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13). We are now free from the guilt of the Law, delivered from its penalty, and able to say with complete satisfaction:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

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