NOT LONG AGO, as I was emerging from my car in the university parking lot, an associate who had followed me into the lot remarked, "I like the mes sage on your car's rear bumper. I wish I could put something like that on my car, but I'm afraid my driving wouldn't set a good example."
I thought of the message, emblazoned in large letters: "Have a nice forever, Jesus is coming soon," but something bothered me. The bumper sticker was, in a. small way, witnessing to the soon return of our Lord. But what about the action of the car and its driver? Weren't they just as important witnesses?
My friend, a physician, went on to say that he was usually in a hurry to meet appointments or to get home and had gotten into the habit of driving faster than the law permitted. Often, he felt, in a rather reckless manner. He concluded. "Maybe someday I will be able to slow down and be a better example!"
A few nights later, thinking about the incident, I wondered about my own driving, and the driving habits of fellow Christians. Had we become accustomed, as have so many others, to get ting away with breaking the law? Do we speed down the highway with one eye on the road and the other on the rear-view mirror—watching for a trailing patrolman? Have we come to think that we are above the laws of the land?
What about it? Is our driving all that important to our witness? Do people really watch us behind the wheel and judge our God and our profession by our actions?
Suppose no one is around to watch you—what then? Would you drive differently?
Ellen White said, "True religion is ever distinctly seen in our . . . every act of life" (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 190).
Perhaps the story of a priest, which appeared some years ago in a national magazine, might have a message for us. He was driving along a country road faster than legally permissible. No patrolman was in sight. He picked up speed. Suddenly a policeman appeared at the roadside ahead, motioning him over. With an "In a hurry to get to church, Father?" he began to fill out a ticket for speeding. The clergyman pro tested, "But you couldn't have known I was going that fast." The patrolman only smiled, and motioning toward the sky, said, "Someone up there is watch ing you." Puzzled, the priest leaned out the window and meekly noted a circling helicopter overhead that had observed his errant ways.
Really now, isn't Someone up there watching us, too?
When I was younger I used to over hear the driving exploits of younger church members. Often the church pas tor had an equally as good account of his own. Speeding, racing a train to a crossing, eluding the surveillance of a policeman, scaring a little old lady with a narrow miss of a head-on collision, or simply not showing good driving manners or common sense—all were received with the humor intended.
Does this sound as though we are set ting a good example of the profession we bear? It is when we are carrying put the common duties and activities of life that our true motives and inner characters are revealed. Perhaps our driving habits are one area of life that need improving.
The apostle cautions, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). Rather than being a speed trial, this race is one of consistently moving forward toward the perfection that is found in reflecting the loveliness of our Lord and Saviour. "When the heart is in harmony with Jesus, when in ... deportment, you copy the Pattern, the manners will be refined and elevated" (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 332).
One of the most difficult lessons to learn in life is that of responsibility for one's actions. It is always easier to blame someone or something else for the mistakes we make or the missing links in our character. However, discipline comes from practice. And control of one's actions requires repeated practice to form right habits.
What I'm getting at is that once one gets into a rut of wrong action, it's difficult to extricate oneself, however small the defect. "Every action, good or bad, prepares the way for its repetition" (ibid., p. 119).
And for the one who has been errant in the phase of character development being discussed, "Resolutely commence the work of controlling your . .. actions" (ibid., vol. 4, p. 243).
It would be good at this time in our history to remind ourselves of the traits that made this nation strong. Our fore fathers knew that a strong nation was made up of the strong characters of its citizens. And only with obedience to its laws and respect of the rights of others could it long endure. That has a lot to do with the ethics of any activity and certainly applies to driving.
Adventists and Driving
Some may think that Seventh-day Adventists are consistently more law-abiding drivers than the general population. Statistics, unfortunately, indicate that is not so! A 1973 report (J. W. Kuzma, et al. Nonfatal traffic accidents in relation to biographical, psycho logical, and religious factors. Accident Analysis and Prevention 5:55-65, 1973) of Seventh-day Adventist driving habits found that Adventists are involved in as many traffic violations as are non- Seventh-day Adventists. In fact, the average number of violations among Seventh-day Adventist drivers was higher than it was among alcohol-drinking non-Adventists!
The kinds of violations for which Seventh-day Adventists are being cited more than non-Seventh-day Adventists are primarily speeding and illegal and unsafe passing and turns. It is interesting to note that both of these forms of disobedience to traffic laws are major causes of accidents. Has the "other world" approach of our beliefs led us to feel that the "restrictions" of society are of less importance? "The ethics of the gospel acknowledge no standard but the perfection of the divine character. The life of Christ was a perfect fulfillment of every precept of the law. . . . His life is our example of obedience and service."—The Ministry of Healing, pp. 451, 452. "It is by conformity to the will of God in ... our deportment . . . that we prove our connection with Him." —Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 92.
There are several other reasons for the Christian to apply the golden rule to his driving, just as he does to other areas of his activities.
1. Limited Resources. These are days when man has become acutely aware of shortages of natural resources. Metals and fuel supplies are limited. Lowered speed laws have reduced fuel consumption as well as significantly decreased accidents and fatalities. This world is soon to end, but in the mean time, let's show respect to our trust as caretakers of the earth and its bounties.
2. Aggressiveness in Driving. When someone is careless or reckless in driving it generally irritates other drivers so that they may become more aggressive in their driving habits (violence begets violence). Many people are already frustrated with life—why add an additional stress? A courteous driver can make others feel more at ease and, like a soft answer, turn away wrath.
3. Examples to Youth. Young people are faced with hypocrisy in many places. They need sound, courageous examples of God-fearing men and women who are law supporters. The evangelist, minister, or anyone young people look to must lead circumspect lives, which includes their driving. Children sing the song "Sermon in Shoes"—that includes being behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.