The Parable of the Merciful Judge

Another reprint from Mormon Matters. I came up with the following parable to explain to a Born Again Christian friend why I felt his belief that our actions plays no role in salvation at all was setting up a false dichotomy between influence and merit. It floated like a lead balloon, of course. He didn’t even bother to comment back to me. I later reused it with a carpool of Mormons that all seemed to enjoy it quite a bit more. In case you are wondering, yes, it’s a true story too. (Note: because I’m getting questions about this, I’ll add this – this is not a parable about the atonement nor is the judge here meant to represent Christ. This parable, as with all parables, is limited in scope with the point it makes.)

Once there was a young teenaged boy that was inexperienced at driving and made the mistake of driving home at night without his headlights on. He had turned on his parking lights but had failed to pull the switch just a bit further for the headlights. The roads were well lit, so it was not obvious to such an inexperienced driver that something was wrong.

When a cop pulled him over, he was shocked to find that he had driven the whole way without his lights on. When he was required to go before a judge he immediately admitted his guilt and expressed gladness he had not hurt anyone.

The judge, sensing that this teen would not benefit from having to pay the ticket nor the additional insurance costs, threw the ticket out. The judge added “I’ve made the same mistake before myself. Just be careful in the future.”

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