‘Judgment free driving’

Ok, let’s get back in our cars and take a test drive today. It’s time for ROAD GRACE, that wonderful experience on the highways of life that teach us about what it means to follow the Master Jesus in the journey of faith.

If you have been following ‘Road Grace’ you have come to realize that driving offers a school of experience in which to practice the graces of the Christian life.  Today’s lesson is about ‘judging’.  You may recall Jesus’ words on this subject from the Sermon on the Mount where he plainly says to the students he has collected, “Don’t judge others, or you will be judged. You will be judged in the same way that you judge others, and the amount you give to others will be given to you.“Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? (Matthew 7:1-3 New Century Version)

So, how do you feel about people talking on their cellphones, drifting off their lane?If you are like me you think, ‘What a jerk’.  What about the guy who rushes up on the right shoulder so that he can get ahead of the traffic? What a selfish so and so. We form opinions pretty quickly out there on the roadways. Those ‘rich folks’ drive their fancy cars. Over in the other lane are a bunch of no doubt rowdy kids looking for trouble. And how about those trucks that are so high off the ground you need a ladder just to get into the driver’s seat? How stupid. All kinds of thoughts dart in and out of your mind as you watch other drivers, their style, their appearance, their speed and if you are like me you often find yourself quick to judge that ‘other’ person.

It’s not much different in the journey with Jesus.  His instructions make it clear to the disciples, his students, that to judge someone is to find fault with them and thereby set us over and above them. Judging comes from pride. It’s what the Pharisee did to the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, not knowing anything about the heart of that publican.  It’s what we do on the highways and in personal relationships that comes from our own pride. We judge by other’s actions, words, lifestyle without ever knowing what is in their hearts. This might not be such a big deal on the highway but in real life situations and relationships it is most damaging.  We dismiss if not destroy another’s character when we should be more closely looking into our own hearts for those hints of pride and prejudice. Judgment comes from an inflated sense of self. And in judging we do not let God be sovereign. Let God do that work in us that needs to be done to build our character without tearing down another’s.

Out there on the highway we have the opportunity to practice in a sometimes-humorous way the disciplines and graces we need in all relationships with others and with God. So when you see another person looking or doing something that is ‘not quite right’ remember to say to yourself, ‘Move over ego and let the Master drive this automobile. Think of one person in your life about whom you make judgments and for a moment in prayer ask God’s forgiveness and pray that God will bless that other person. You will thus open your soul to a wealth of love and forgiveness from God.

Deadly Distractions

More than 3000 people were killed in 2012 in car crashes attribute to distractions while driving. Many more were injured because when driving our cars we should be focused on the road and the route but many of us do things like drink our coffee, put on our make-up, read bits of the newspaper lying in our laps, use our cellphones and probably worst of all ‘text’.  Even adjusting our radio is enough to take our eyes off the road for that split second that could mean life or death, to us or to another driver.

And now I want to suggest, as part of my series on Road Grace that driving our car is somewhat analogous to our life as a follower of Jesus. Distractions on the journey of discipleship may not seem to lead to a deadly outcome but if they separate us from the walk that we intend with Jesus, well, we might just end up lost or even worse.

So let’s consider distractions to living the life of a follower of Jesus. I suspect that pride is right up there at number one.  It’s hard to think of others when you are too busy thinking about yourself.  It’s hard to listen to others with a sense of respect when all you care about is the sound of your own voice. I know. I have done it and realized too late how uncaring I seemed to the other person.

Anger is distracting. So is lust. So are material possessions. Worry is distracting taking our eyes off our relationship with Jesus and his direction because we are too busy thinking about tomorrow.  Guilt is a distraction from the joy of a relationship with a loving God who forgives so completely.  Busyness and hurrying are distractions to the time we could spend loving others and loving God.

I believe that Satan isn’t as dark and malicious as some movies portray him. He has only to ‘distract’ us for a moment.  I am recalling (I hope correctly) that in one of Screwtape’s letters to his younger colleague he argues that when the patient (a new Christian) is reading the Bible all the colleague has to do is distract him with hunger so he will stop reading and probably not get back to it. How often has that happened to us where our devotions are interrupted never to be visited again that day?

Distraction is what Satan was about in the temptation of our Lord, distraction from the purpose for which Jesus came to our world.

Shame is one of the greatest distractions of the devil. Thinking that God couldn’t love us or care for us because of our character, or some bad deed or something someone has said to us.  Shame takes our eyes off God’s love and places that sight back on ourselves that we are not good enough.

So be careful in your walk with Christ not to be distracted to the right or the left but to stay on the path with Jesus, doing what he has said and trusting his love more than we trust anything else. Let’s keep our eyes on Christ.

Hey, we want to get to our destination whole.

 

 

ANGER ON THE HIGHWAY (second in a series on Road Grace)

Recall that Jesus told his disciples that not only were they NOT to commit murder they were further instructed to NOT be angry with those who were close to them nor were they to insult their neighbor. See Matthew 5:21,22.

So come with me as we get into our 3600-pound car and learn something about anger on the highways of life. Because out there on the streets you will have plenty of opportunity to observe anger even, your own which is what we are here most concerned about.

Let’s do some defining of this word anger. It means to be indignant or enraged. It is the ego’s reaction when anything outside threatens to trespass on the property of the self. It is a kind of contempt for another person’s words or actions. Oh, you can be frustrated because you can’t do a job and be said to get angry but the anger we are discussing here is a reaction to another’s actions or words. See it’s YOUR car, YOUR right to drive, YOUR space that needs to be respected and YOUR power that no one should attempt to thwart.

You are riding down the road doing the speed limit but some big ole SUV comes up behind you to infer that you need to ‘move it buddy’. Oh, yeah, that can provoke some contempt and words like ‘jerk’, ‘idiot’ and worse might come to your mind.  And because of your pride, if you have a friend riding with you, you might say, ‘watch how I deal with these kind of people’, at which point you brake suddenly for the imaginary moose that just ran out in front of you. There, that will show him or her not to fool with me.

Then there are the times when a person might cut in front of you provoking your thoughts to be, ‘people like that really make my blood boil.’ That’s anger, and revenge might just seem justifiable. And the list of similar experiences goes on.

Now, you might be thinking, what does all this have to do with following Jesus’ words, his commands about anger? Good question. The answer is that rage on the highway translates into rage in relationships. If we are the kind of people who get angry with someone on the road we might well have our tempers flare up at other provocations. Think of what causes you to get angry with your spouse, child, co-worker, and neighbor.

What I am suggesting is that out there on the highway, down the streets of life is the opportunity to address this anger, be more conformed to the life of Christ that is already in you.  Remember Paul wrote that is it no longer we who live this life but Christ who lives in us. See Galatians 2:20.

So the first thing we will have to do is recognize our egos, our prideful selves, our power and the temptation to easily be angered.  Identify that inclination even before you get on the highway. Review in your mind’s eye the times you have been angry on the roads of life and never mind justifying those incidents. Instead say to that ‘self’, that ego: “You are not helping me”. “You feel good but you are no good.” ‘Now get outta here, go away.’ See you can talk to your ‘self’. You really can. As a child of God, a follower of Christ and a spiritual person you have the power to stand back and address the self that inside of you, a self that needs power and prestige. A self that does not like humility does not see humility as an answer to anything. Watch some of the FAST AND FURIOUS movies and see how good revenge and power feels. These movies are meant to feed the ego. They sell better that way.

Secondly you, and I, are going to want to pray that as we use our one ton, two ton vehicle or more if you are an over the road truck driver, pray that you will have a calm spirit. You might want to write Psalm 46:10 over your visor, BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. The ‘I’ there is not referring to you or me. How about Psalm 37:8 ‘refrain from anger’.

See getting rid of anger takes discipline, spiritual disciplines.  Even taking a defensive driver course can be a spiritual discipline of saying, ‘Lord, I am doing this to be more like Christ out there on the highway and thus more like Christ in every daily living situation.

You might need a mentor, someone with whom you drive that lovingly holds you accountable. “George, you need to calm down. Let’s pull over here and take a break. George, you really don’t need to keep blowing your horn. Uh, uh, the one finger wave is not the way to go. George, keep your eyes on the road while I pray for you. George you really are a great guy. You don’t need to prove anything out here on the highway.’

And finally, relax. Jesus isn’t giving us new laws so that we can declare how righteous we are by how little we get angry on the highway. Work with him, drive with him. If you fail then forget it and get on with the next situation that will present itself for your improvement.  Eventually you and I will be less angry out there and in other circumstances and relationships as well.

So start your engines.