Do You Speed?

 

Do You Speed?

Driving like a Christian

Richard Hollerman

Decades ago, I learned that a friend of mine (I’ll call him Dan), whom I admired greatly, had taken a long trip to other states.  Although I forget the details, either Dan himself or a member of his family informed me that he had driven very fast just to “make time” in his driving. I believe that he may have been driving 70 or 80 mph in a 60 mph zone. What was I to do?

I admit that I was somewhat shocked when I learned of Dan’s indiscretion.  Or shall I say his outright disobedience?  In keeping with Paul’s command to “admonish the unruly” (1 Thessalonians 5:14), I decided to say something to him. I did speak to Dan in private and shared with him something that he already knew: that speeding on the highway is sinful.  It was not something that would have been expected of him since he was generally a very conscientious brother in Christ, careful in other aspects of his behavior.

I pointed out to Dan that many considerations would keep us from violating the speeding laws. Consider Romans 13:1-2:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and those who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

I assume that I pointed out to Dan that we are to be “in subjection” to the local and state police, along with national authorities.  These “authorities” are established by God and in accordance with His will.  If we “resist” this authority—if we deliberately disobey the speed limit laws—we are opposing the “ordinance of God” and if we do this we will “receive condemnation” on ourselves. This is no small matter. In fact, it is a serious act of rebellion against the Lord!

Paul the apostle continues in his discussion of our relationship to civil authority:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake (Romans 13:3-5).

This section of the apostle’s writing is clear enough.  We are to practice “good behavior and not “evil” behavior before our local, state, and national authorities. In the first century, they also had local and empire-wide authorities. We are to be obedient to them and the laws that they have enacted. This would include paying our local and national taxes. It would include registering our cars and trucks each year. It would include renewing our driver’s license as well as obtaining liability insurance (at least here in Texas). And it would include driving within the speed limit that the highway department or police have determined is safe for driving.

Continuing to look at Romans 13, generally speaking (unless we live in an evil country), authorities will give “praise” to those citizens who obey the law.  Therefore, we must strive to be “law-abiding citizens” and not law-breakers.  Paul goes so far as to say that these civil authorities are “ministers” or servants of God (v. 4)!  As such, the police “bears a sword” as an “avenger” toward those who practice evil.  We obey because of the state’s “wrath” but also because we sincerely want to obey God, thus, “for conscience’ sake,” we will want to submit to these human ordinances (v. 5).

In another place, Paul writes: “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed” (Titus 3:1). Timothy was to encourage believers to be “subject” to or submissive to rulers and authorities. This would include obeying the speed limit on our streets and highways! Peter adds to all of this:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Peter 2:13-15).

This is as clear as Paul’s admonition.  Because of our relationship to the Lord, we are to submit to our civil authorities. In those days it would include the emperor and governors. Today, it would include the President, the governor, the mayor, and all lesser authorities, including the police department.  Do we have respect for our local and state police? Some unbelievers refer to a police officer as a “pig” or something worse! This should never be found on our lips (Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 3:8). Peter says that when we live a law-abiding life, we will cause all slander from unbelievers to cease in regard to our civil obedience.  People should know that we are a Christian by the way we drive!

The Scriptures make it clear that violating the laws of the land is sinful before the Lord. But it would seem that most Americans freely disobey the speed limits.  One report says:

Research suggests U.S. motorists are growing increasingly cynical about the relevance of speed limits, and a new study indicates many motorists are more likely to think they can drive safely while speeding as long as they won’t get caught. (redorbit.com/news/science/ 1598913/study_most_ drivers_disobey_speed_limits/)

Thus, people will break the law “as long as they won’t get caught.” This sounds like what rebellious children do with their parents and what some students do with their teachers!

Fred Mannering, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue University made a study of this issue.  One report states:

“For whatever reason, respect for speed limits seems to have deteriorated,” Mannering said. “A 2002 survey indicated two-thirds of all drivers reported they exceeded the posted speed limit, and roughly one-third reported driving 10 mph faster than most other vehicles. These figures are even more disturbing when you consider that they’re self-reported and likely to be understating the degree of speeding problems.” (Ibid.)

This researcher analyzed this survey and made these conclusions:

Of the 988 drivers in the survey, 21 percent thought it was safe to drive up to 5 mph over the speed limit, 43 percent thought it was safe to drive up to 10 mph over and 36 percent thought it was safe to drive up to 20 mph over the speed limit. (Ibid.)

Mannering refers to a media campaign in Indiana that had the purpose of discouraging speeding on the highway.  The professor stated: “The research showed the media campaign relating to the dangers of speeding had no statistically significant impact on drivers’ views on speeding and safety.” (Ibid.) It would seem that even showing the dangers of driving over the speed limit was not enough to slow drivers down!

The research showed that younger drivers generally break the law more often than older drivers: “The findings also showed that people get progressively more conservative about speeding as they age. A 25 year-old driver is 75 percent more likely to think it is safe to drive up to 20 mph over the speed limit than a 50 year-old driver.” (Ibid.) This should probably not be surprising. Younger people do violate many of God’s principles, probably more than older folks. Consider the use of tobacco, drunkenness, abuse of drugs, sexual immorality, belief in sodomy, practice of abortion, and other vices. And now we see that young people are more prone to violate the speed limit restrictions.

Before the backdrop of this world’s carelessness in obeying the civil authorities, the true Christian should be very careful about all of his life—including the way he drives.  Simply said, the follower of Jesus should be willing to obey the Lord in this matter of civil obedience and in all other areas of his life.

There is one disclaimer that we should mention.  We are to be obedient to the Lord in all things that are right and true and honest.  If ever a human authority should command us to disobey the Lord, we must humbly but clearly refuse.  We must be like Peter when he was commanded to cease preaching Jesus publicly. Peter, along with the other apostles, answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). This is similar to what Peter had said earlier (Acts 4:18-20). Remember, if there is ever a conflict between what an authority wants and what God wants, we must choose the Lord!

If civil authorities should want us to kill our baby through abortion, we must refuse. If an authority should want to keep us from pointing out the sinfulness of adultery and sodomy, we must refuse. If an authority should want us to enter the armed forces and kill national enemies, we must object. If an authority would ever try to keep us from condemning the idolatry and wickedness of false religion, we must refuse.  If the time should ever come when an authority commands that we not proclaim Jesus as God’s Son and our Savior, we must refuse. In all things, “we must obey God rather than men”!

When I explained my disappointment to Dan about his highway speeding, he manifested a contrite heart.  I may have pointed out that even if there was no law against driving at such a high rate of speed, a love for his family in the car should keep him from such a foolish thing as driving recklessly and so fast.

Dan did repent and told me so.  He said that he would seek to drive more carefully in the future because he could see now that he had not only disobeyed the civil authorities but also had disobeyed the Lord.

How about you? Do you speed?  Do you drive too fast on the freeways, the country roads, and the city streets?  I might also ask, “Do you use a cell phone where you shouldn’t or do you even try to send a text message while driving?” (I understand that this is now illegal in some parts of the country and it may be outlawed entirely.)  Do you only drive through green lights and not through red lights? In all of these cases, whether we receive a ticket or not, we should know that we are to drive to please God. 

One person rightfully said, “We should drive unto others as we would want them to drive unto us,” as an expression of the so-called Golden Rule (Luke 6:31). Let’s drive like a Christian—and let’s be careful not to speed!

 

 

 

 

   

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