All I need to know about your spiritual condition, I can discover by watching you drive your car. What I’ve learned is that everyone is a lawbreaker, including me. It’s as simple as asking a few short questions about your driving habits:
Do you always come to a full stop when you see a stop sign?
Do you always use a turn signal?
Do you always obey the speed limit?
Do you ever speed up when a light turns yellow?
Do you ever stop at a red light with your car in the crosswalk?
Do you ever glance at your phone for anything other than directions?
Do you ever get angry at the driver in front of you because they’re going the speed limit?
Go ahead, hide behind your laptops, your iPads and cellphones, but I already know the truth.
The asphalt road is the great equalizer. It brings out the “best” in us. The hypocrite, the legalist, the super-righteous, and the antinomian.
It’s one of those rare places where you can see people do terrible things, then get angry at them, shake your fist at them, maybe share a few choice words with them, while thinking you would never do anything so dangerous, and at the same time buzz past them 10 miles over the speed limit to make the green light that already turned yellow.
If anything exposes our ability to break the law and do it willingly, it’s being behind the wheel of a car.
Not only are we willing lawbreakers when it comes to the open road, we think we’re better law-breakers than others. That’s why we get angry. “I only go through those lights when I’m sure there’s no oncoming traffic, or it won’t harm anyone.” “Turn signals are for when there’s a lot of traffic, for the benefit of others.” “I only go over the allowable 7-10 miles per hour over the speed limit.”
Nearly anywhere we live on this earth, there are rules to follow that help order society. In many cases, we’re given a little leeway as to some of those rules, if no one’s being a particularly ridiculous knucklehead. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a ticket for stopping at a light in a crosswalk. In fact, I know someone that it happened to, and they were outraged, but the reality is, they still broke the law.
Driving exposes my inability to keep the law, and even do it on purpose. It reminds me, that when it comes to God, I don’t always follow His rules, and sometimes even that’s on purpose.
Beginning in Matthew 5:27, Jesus reminds us that even the smallest infraction, reveals something deeper about ourselves. Just looking (at a woman with lust) and speaking (hateful words to a person) reveals a soul deeply stained by sin. He went so far as to say that our eyes and lips betray us by showing us and others a glimpse of what we want to do physically. In the case of the scripture mentioned, either commit adultery or murder.
I know some Christians file those smaller infractions under a mistake or a slip up. I suppose if we don’t go around shouting names at people on a regular basis that could be the case, but it minimizes our need, specifically our need for a Savior. I know people who would run out of rooms to avoid talking to a pretty woman, or “bouncing the eyes” was one of the more hysterical coping mechanisms from my younger years. But these are reactions. Something had to trigger it. “I ran and bounced my eyes, so I wouldn’t sin.” No, you probably did those things because according to Jesus, you already had something going on inside you.
Refraining from the worse possible sins is not the point. The point is, even the smallest sin reveals something deeper. We may not say it outwardly to someone, but Jesus said, it’s there in your mind-in your heart. The smaller sins reveal deeper motives.
I want the road, and the laws of the road to conform to me. I don’t want a ticket for driving in a bus lane one block too long (true story). I don’t want people I deem unfit for the road anywhere near a car. I want what I want.
And then I repent. Often while I’m driving.
It has more to do with my attitude then the laws. The laws just reveal it, as it should-as it always has. While I can’t escape the red-light tickets or do anything about the reckless people on the road, I can do something about my attitude towards them.
I can bring it to Jesus. I can lay it at his feet. I can ask for his forgiveness and mercy. I can ask for grace to cover me for my poor attitude and my sinful inclinations, right down to the smallest one, because I know even the smallest one reveals something deeper about me and my condition. I can ask for his help to react differently. I have, and I still do today, quite often. Thankfully, he gives to me. It’s all mine. Forgiveness, mercy, grace. I even have his help.
The law, whether God’s or man’s, will always reveal my evil inclinations. It will always reveal how much I need Jesus.
Pardon the pun, but it steers me there. I’m reminded of this at every stop sign.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?