I have a friend named Louise, who, to all intents and purposes is a pretty good driver; slightly irrational, because she is terrified that a semi will throw a tyre into her windshield at any moment—but basically a good driver.
Louise follows the road rules, uses her indicator, checks her mirrors at all times—but she is ultra-paranoid about getting a speeding ticket.
For Louise, it’s all good until it comes to speed-limit signs. Granted, no one really knows how fast one is supposed to drive on Australian roads because vast areas of highways are under construction. At any moment the speed limit can change four times in one kilometre because someone on a road construction team puts an orange cone out. For people like Louise, these tracts of ambiguous speed limits bring on feelings of nausea.
Louise told me about driving through a school zone a few weeks ago. At certain times of the day, drivers are allowed to travel at only 40 kilometres per hour through the school zone. As school finished Louise was driving through the school zone, petrified that she would be caught speeding. So, instead of watching for children crossing the road or the lollipop lady holding the sign, she watched her speedometer the entire time as she drove through the zone. She had to follow the rules. But following the rules opened up a whole new world of danger for those who were trying to cross the street—those whom the rules were trying to protect.
The church does the same thing. With one finger planted in the Ten Commandments and another finger rifling furiously through pages of the Bible looking for something Jesus was supposed to have said about loving our neighbour as ourselves, we can tend to fixate on the speed-limit sign, following the rules. Our love of the commands and demands of the law creates a mesmerising focus on how we are doing rather than where we are going. And when we focus only on following the rules, we have a tendency to narrowly miss running others down.
Speed signs: Honour your father and your mother, stop stealing, don’t lie on Facebook, act like an adult and stop talking about your neighbour, stop coveting—stop breaking the rules. While keeping one finger trapped in the middle of the commandments and shaking the other finger at those attempting to cross the road, we find that we are in danger of running into people with the law, without keeping our eyes open for opportunities to express the gospel.
While you are driving through life, where are your eyes? On the speed limit? Or on others?
Reid Matthias is pastor of Green Pastures Lutheran Church, Lockrose, Queensland.