Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness . . . not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Rom. 2:4)

The teenage girl came before the Florida court for her bond hearing. She stood at the mercy of the judge who would set her bail. The judge represented the court’s grace at that moment. But instead of honoring the judge, she repeatedly laughed and responded disrespectfully. So the judge doubled her bond. At that, she flashed an obscene gesture . . . and was promptly sent to jail for contempt.

As we read Paul’s words in Romans, our standing before God becomes clear. Our sinful selves deserve every bit of God’s wrath and judgment. Yet in His patient mercy, He gives us the opportunity to repent and humbly accept his grace. This mercy, however, didn’t come cheaply, and God doesn’t abide those who take it lightly.

We sometimes forget that we are only right with God because of His grace. When we act as though this gives us the freedom to sin, even just a little, or the right to judge another, we show the same contempt for God that the teenager showed her judge. Instead, we should stand humbly before God, repentant, anxious to do anything He might ask in return. We should remember that Jesus came to die so He could pay our “bond.” Because of Him we can be right before our holy Judge. We should joyously revel in this rich mercy, never take it for granted.

Set a hammer, your “judge’s gavel,” somewhere obvious to remind you of God’s kindness.

Diane Gardner is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in northern California, where she enjoys reading, painting, and exploring the San Francisco Bay area with her husband.