By Sally E. Stuart
Are you a Christian driver?”
My immediate response was, “Certainly, I’ve been a Christian since I was 13, and I’ve been driving for more years than I can count.”
“No,” came the answer. “You didn’t understand the question. It was not, ‘Are you a Christian who drives?’ but, ‘Do you drive as a Christian should?’”
It was a question I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer, one it seems many Christians try to avoid. Nevertheless, my conscience wasn’t about to let me rest until I had an answer.
I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon often takes place when Christians climb into their cars. As we slide into the driver’s seat, Christ is gently nudged out onto the pavement, and off we go, free of what should be a deeply ingrained do-unto-others commitment.
I became keenly aware of this in my own driving when I began to observe both extreme rudeness as well as acts of kindness and consideration from other drivers. Even though I hope I was never guilty of the extreme rudeness, neither could I claim many of those kind gestures on my side of the chart. This seems to be typical of my friends as well. As Christians, we practice going the extra mile in so many areas of our lives. So why do we exempt driving? My conscience was still in there swinging.
I have fine Christian friends who refuse to put “Jesus” stickers on their bumpers because they are afraid they will do something un-Christian behind the wheel, and don’t want it to be a bad reflection on Christianity. Of course, at that point, we ought to be thankful for small favors, but what a difference it would make if we took the opposite tack. Just as we try to honor Christ in other areas of our lives, we could set out to bring honor to the name on that bumper sticker.
There is not a driver anywhere who hasn’t been the victim of a discourteous act at the hands of another driver. How do we typically respond? “An eye for an eye,” or “If one strikes you on the right cheek (or fender) turn to him the other also?”
It was the following bad experience with another driver that finally brought me to my knees. It happened at an intersection where I was making a left-hand turn from one one-way street onto another, using the second turn lane from the curb. This lane was clearly marked as being either for turning or going straight. The man next to me, in the turn-only lane, decided to go straight ahead at the last minute, nearly hitting me broadside as I made my turn.
He pulled up along side me at the next red light, angry and abusive, and proceeded to dissect my driving ability and character. Using all the self-control I could muster, I reminded him that he had been in a turn-only lane. Of course, that made little impact as he was convinced I was in the wrong. As we continued down the street, he took the first opportunity to cut sharply in front of me. Then at the next intersection, he purposely stalled long enough in making a right-hand turn in front of me to make me miss the green light. I was obviously upset by his childish behavior, but as I cooled off and began to think rationally again, I was thankful I had done nothing in retaliation for which I would now be ashamed. That was the point where I began to take a serious look at my Christian responsibility to other drivers, no matter what their degree of fault. My conscience was not gentle in its daily reminders of that responsibility.
I had no sooner gotten that idea ingrained into my driving habits, than I received another jolt to my conscience for which I was not prepared. It happened one day as I was driving along listening to a religious radio station. The preacher’s sermon was on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and it made no profound impression on me until he came to the part where Satan suggested that Jesus throw himself from the top of the temple. I already knew Jesus’ reply about not tempting God, but something in what the speaker said started me thinking about how that scripture applied to me: Had I ever tempted God? My conscience pointed an accusing finger.
The answer was slow and deliberate in coming, but eventually I was reminded of the many times I had asked God to keep me safe as I drove. Then feeling confident of his love and protective power, I exceeded the speed limit when I was running late, or put off buying new tires or having obvious car repairs done that I knew were putting my passengers and me in danger.
I once had a pair of bald front tires that were so prayed over I began regarding them with reverence. Undoubtedly, the time spent praying they would hold together would have been better spent in having them replaced. Tempting God?
Certainly God is there to help protect us when there are unavoidable emergencies, but I found myself guilty of having tempted him when I expected divine intervention when I foolishly broke traffic laws or the laws of nature and good sense. Since that time, I have been careful not to pray for his protection unless I was prepared to back it up with safe, sane driving.
I wish someone would have reminded me of my responsibilities as a “Christian driver” when I first took to the road. But I suppose they would not have left such a lasting impression as I have had indelibly inscribed on my driver’s seat from these first-hand experiences.
My question now is how far is the second mile for the Christian driver? Certainly we should look for every opportunity to positively “do unto others” in the day-to-day business of driving, but I’m not convinced that is enough. As I continued to question this matter of degree, I recalled an experience recently shared by a Christian friend.
He and another man were embarking on a road trip together, so before starting up the car my friend led in their usual prayer for traveling mercies. At the conclusion of his prayer, the other man added this postscript: “Lord, we do desire to return safely from this trip, but if someone must be injured or die on the highway today, let it be us – we are ready.”
Is that a Christian driver? Are you a Christian driver?>