Zipper Merge


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 104; 149, Zephaniah 3:14-20, Revelation 18:1-14, Luke 14:1-11

The zipper merge is the idea that, when construction or an accident forces two lanes of traffic to funnel into a single lane, drivers should continue using both lanes as long as possible, then alternate between lanes to proceed. States which have adopted this strategy claim it significantly reduces traffic backup, but many people are reluctant to use it. They feel it’s rude to use the closing lane instead of waiting your turn, and either refuse to do it themselves, and/or refuse to yield to people who do so. Either way, they’re shifting blame onto the other “side” when traffic studies show it’s the refusal to yield that really increases the congestion.

We’ve been refusing to yield since well before the invention of the automobile.

When Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited […]; and the host […] may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. […S]it down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In a culture where “second place is first loser,” we are not inclined to put on the brakes. Yet Jesus clearly instructs us that it’s God’s role, not ours, to decide who is first. Refusing to yield – literally or figuratively – may be momentarily satisfying but it doesn’t teach the other person a lesson. It does, however, reveal something about our own humility. In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes: “love does not insist on its own way.” That’s the zipper merge in a nutshell. In God’s kingdom the point is not to get there first, it’s to get there together.

Comfort: God isn’t sorting us by losers and winners.

Challenge: As you go through your day, look for more opportunities to cooperate rather than to compete.

Prayer: God of Justice, I will work with your children, not against them. Amen.

Discussion: Some competition is healthy, but it becomes unhealthy when it interferes with our ability to treat each other as Jesus asks. Are you prone to any unhealthy competition?

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