Over the last few months our neighborhood has undergone a lot of changes in traffic patterns. My street in particular has had many stops signs and streetlights moved or removed. Judging from the number of automobile collisions, near misses, and squealing brakes, “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” is not universally understood. You might assume that legally the responsibility clearly falls on the person who didn’t stop when they were supposed to, and most of the time you’d be right, but in many states the law says if you can try to avoid an accident and choose not to, you are also partially at fault. As I’ve lived on the street for several years, and I am aware of the increased possibility of accidents, you can be sure I slow down as I near problem intersections. Part of me is annoyed that I have to, but a better part doesn’t want my self-righteousness to cause anyone else pain.
Would it be fair to say the church doesn’t always take responsibility for how its own Cross-traffic can sometimes do more harm than good? We can feel fully justified about the course we have set, following the doctrinal rules of the road, but sometimes our determination to move our own agenda forward causes harm. When we are unyielding and someone gets hurt, we tend to shift all the blame to those sinful drivers who would be just fine if they followed the rules.
Life throws all kinds of confusing detours at people. If we are so stuck behind our righteous blinders that we’d rather collide than swerve, we need to take responsibility for the damages.
If we really want to share the gospel, instead of wielding it like two tons of unforgiving inertia, we need to be aware of where people are. If we insist on being right, yet our rightness wounds or kills them (and bad religion has done plenty of both), exactly who have we saved? When it comes to life, none of us has a spotless driving record, yet when dealing with other people we often seem to forget how we’ve been forgiven and survived to tell the tale. We insist on repentance for sins we aren’t currently committing but remain silent about the ones we are (unless perhaps we protest too much). Offering a little accident forgiveness doesn’t mean we’ve justified the infraction.
If you feel like like you’ve been run over by the church, remember Jesus made many an unexpected left turn to love people he could have bypassed. If you don’t feel safe coming to him, let him come to you. Other people don’t get to make that decision for you.
The communion table is where Cross traffic stops to remember. Where we shouldn’t feel like people are cutting us off, because we shouldn’t be jockeying for the lead. Where someone may experience their first taste of real love and forgiveness – provided we haven’t closed the road.
To paraphrase an old bumper sticker, “Save a life. Be aware. Struggling souls are everywhere.”
May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.