I received a traffic citation recently for not signaling while changing lanes. Needless to say it was troubling, especially since the cost is 2 points against my driving record and a fine of $178! Quite honestly, it angered me to be called out on such a petty offense when there are so many other traffic violations more worthy of the state’s time and energy. Or are there?
After a few days of musing over my troubles, I began to work through the philosophy of traffic laws and came to something like this:
- All traffic laws are intended to promote safety for everyone.
- Any violation of traffic laws potentially jeopardizes others’ safety.
- Christians are called to obey the laws of the state in so far as obedience does not conflict with God’s commands.
- Behind all of God’s commands to us, including the command to obey the laws of the state, is love for God and/or others (Rom. 13:10, for instance).
- What should motivate every act of obedience is love for God and/or others. Any act of disobedience is, at some level, a breakdown or failure to love God and/or others.
- My violation in failing to signal is an act of disobedience and, thus, a failure to love others and care for their safety.
I know…this is quite detailed and far exceeds any typical response to a mere traffic citation. But, that’s just who I am. I analyze, muse, ponder, and reflect on the implications of my behavior; admittedly more than I should perhaps. But please read on….
Jesus explicitly insists that a relationship between love and obedience exists. Read Jn 14:15, 21, 23, for instance. Jesus is not saying “If you obey me, then you will love me.” Rather, he says “If you love me, you will obey me.” Obedience is a sign of love; it is the tangible, visible expression of love. All who love Jesus obey him, but not all who obey Jesus love him. It is unfortunate that many confuse the relationship between the love of God and the laws of God.
It is sad that the biblical history of Israel repeatedly annotates this confusion between love for God and obedience to God (cf. Ps 51:16-19; Mt 23:23-24). The Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear that the law was never to be seen as a means of establishing a relationship with God; a relationship that can only be established by faith in God (cf. Gal 2:16; 3:15-28). Instead, God’s law is a means of maintaining a relationship that is already established by God through love for Him (Rom 8:3-4; 1 Jn 4:19).
Also, Jesus promised that his burden would be light (Mt 11:28-30). Believers are not under the yoke of duty but bound by the law of love (Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14; Jm 2:8).
Love is to obedience as motivation is to action. Obedience without love is mere duty, while love without obedience is mere sentimentalism. The former depersonalizes relationships, and the latter demoralizes them. We obey God because we love him and not vice versa.
Living obediently is an expression of our affection for God (1 John 2:3-6). Conversely, living disobediently is an expression of contempt toward God. Therefore, when I am living disobediently it is often my love for God that has weakened and in need of repair.
And so, the next time you signal before making a lane change, consider the fact that you are loving your neighbor as yourself. I would say the state’s time and energy in issuing the ticket to me was well spent, especially if you increase your love for others when driving!