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Fear and Driving in L.A.
May 9, 2004
I now invite you to turn inyour Bibles to the gospel of John, chapter 13, and follow along as I read verses 31-35. Hear what the Spirit says to us.
31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him.
32 If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him.
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you.
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
Amen. The word of God. Thanks be to God.
A police officer with the L.A.P.D. pulls a driver over to the side of I-5, and asks for his license and registration.
“What’s wrong officer?” the driver asks. “I didn’t go through that red light. And I certainly wasn’t speeding.”
“No you weren’t,” says the officer, “but I saw you shaking your fist as you swerved around the lady driving in the left lane, I saw your flushed and angry face as you shouted at the driver of the Hummer who cut you off, and I saw how you pounded your steering wheel when the traffic ground to a stop.”
The driver said, “Is that a crime, officer?”
“No,” replied the officer, “but when I saw the ‘Jesus loves you and so do I’ bumper sticker on the car, I figured, ‘This car has got to be stolen.’”
All right, that is a joke, but driving in traffic can be a problem. Especially if you live in major cities like Boston, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte, or Los Angeles.
Perhaps Los Angeles is the worst. When it rains, you might as well stay home. You avoid all freeways that end in numbers five or zero. You expect delays; you understand that rush hour is from 5 a.m. to 5 a.m.
As for drivers in L.A., the Koreans are the worst. That is the assessment of Seong Un Joe, a radio celebrity in Koreatown better known by his radio name: Dr. Driving. Dr. Driving says Koreans are lousy drivers. They’re wild. They don’t obey rules and they don’t bother with proper driving etiquette. Dr. Driving is in a position to know. His non-scientific declarations are founded in 20 years as a driving instructor at his own driving school. According to Dr. D., fully 70 percent of Korean immigrants are traffic violators, compared to only 34 percent of the general population.
On the other hand, Joon Kil Ju, deputy director of the Korean National Tourism organization, disagrees with Dr. D.’s assessment of Korean immigrant drivers. There are one or two bad Korean drivers, Mr. Ju says, but not all Koreans are bad drivers.
By way of explanation and justification he notes that there has been an explosion of industrialization and wealth which occurred as result of the advent of democracy and capitalism. This new wealth created a new generation of drivers creating smog-choked mayhem on cramped streets where rudeness is The Rule.
I do not know enough about LA traffic to know if Koreans are really worse than everyone else, but I do know most of our traffic problems stem from discourtesy and a selfish disregard for others. I admit that I am preaching at myself today. I am not nearly as kind and loving as I ought to be when I am behind the wheel of a car. I get involved in my schedule. I want to be there now and anyone in my way is obviously wrong. Of course, I am the one who is obviously wrong, because other people have a right to be on the road and to be going wherever they are going.
Now I read a story in Rev. Magazine(September-October 2003)—that is a magazine a preacher ought to read is it not, Rev. magazine—anyway, I read an article by Charles Lowery, who always drives an old beat up, dinged up, bent up car to work. He was sitting at a traffic light when he got bumped from the rear. That would have really upset him in a new car, but it didn’t bother him a bit in his old car. He got out and asked the other guy if he was hurt. The guy said he was sorry, but he didn’t have insurance. Lowery looked at the guy’s car and realized he didn’t have much of anything, so he told him that God loved him, and said he would remember him in his prayers and got back in his car and left.
Now I read that story and I thought, what a great attitude!! This is the way Christians are supposed to act. Maybe we should all drive old beat up dinged up cars so we can act that way. But the car we drive is not the solution, the attitude is the solution.
I have an antidote for the condition that I call fear and driving in LA. The antidote is not complicated. It is one four-letter word with a deep and ancient meaning — love.
So how does love of neighbor, love of each other, unclog onerous, aggressive traffic, and help me get to the hospital, or the store, or my destination?
Loving each other, as Jesus taught us, means realizing that other people are in those cars. I have a new thing I am doing to try to improve my love while driving. I imagine that the person in the other car is a sweet little old lady who is going to visit her grandkids, or I imagine that the other driver is a young mother who has two kids in the car with her that she is trying to manage while driving. The point is that we need to remember that each car has a driver and that each driver is a person and each person is a child of God.
Seeing in this way means understanding that each person, in or out of a car, is deserving of our loving kindness, just as God loves us (Titus 3:4).
In vs34 and 35 of John 13, Jesus talks with his disciples about love. It is a strange situation to talk about love. Judas has gone to betray Jesus, and Jesus knows this, but he does not want his people to have jealousies and suspicions of one another. The temple priests are seeking to murder him, but Jesus does not want to focus on their hatred. In the midst of this anger and tension, Jesus talks about relationships of love.
He has three arguments for mutual love:
First, this is a commandment (Joh_13:34): A new commandment I give unto you. Jesus not only commends love as amiable and pleasant, not only counsels love as excellent and profitable, but commands it, and makes it one of the fundamental laws of his kingdom.
IJH3:23 says, “This is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” Often as Christians, we say that the essential thing is tobelieve in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Actually that is not exactly what the scdripture says. It says that we are to believe in Jesus and love one another. The two are the same. If we believe in Jesus we will love one another.
Our Lord and savior commands us to love. He has the right to command us and he gives us this law to cure our spiritual diseases and to prepare us for heaven.
Now we should note that this is not so much a new commandment as renewed commandment. Love is the oldest law of nature. God created because he loved. Moreover, we read in Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” But because Christ is the new Lawgiver, it is called a new commandment; it is like an old book in a new edition; it has been corrected and enlarged. This commandment was not much stressed by ancient Israel and so Christ revived it, and set it forth as the truth of God.
So this is an old commandment, but we might as well call it new because it is certainly new and astonishing when it comes to human affairs. As human beings, we think interms of revenge, retribution, and retaliation. The word love, as we use it most of the time is about is self-love or sexual love. Tht is not what Jesus is talking about at all. The Greek word that is translated as Love is agaph. Agaph describes the kind of love that God had for his son and for us. Love is known by its actions. God’s love is seen in the gift of his son. The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect expression of love. Our expression of love is the result of Christ in us. That is to say that as we believe in Christ, and he permeates our soul, we express his love to others. Christian love is not just a sentimental feeling about others, nor is it dependent upon whether others love us. They may not love us; We may not like them very much—that is to say that we may not have any mutual good feelings toward them—but we are still called to love them. Agaph love may sometimes run against our natural inclinations. When someone hurts us, our natural inclination is to hurt them. Agaph love says that we should love them and act for their benefit. We should seek to do good to them, even though they may be seeking to do evil to us.
From God’s point of view, we were seeking to do evil to God when we were lost in our sin and iniquity. If God had thought in terms of revenge, he would have destroyed us, wiped the planet clean and started over again. But God does not think that way. God sent Christ to us to show us a new way, a way of love.
Jesus himself is the example of agaph love. Jesus says in v34, “As I have loved you.” Think of all the instances of Christ's love for his disciples. He spoke kindly to them, concerned himself for them, and for their welfare. He instructed, counseled, and comforted them. He prayed with them and for them. He rebuked them when they did wrong, and yet he loved them inspite of their failings. And he demonstrated his love for all his disciples, for all his people, by laying down his life for us. John 15:13, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” Christ laid down his life for us, that was his love. That is agaph love, and that is the kind of love we are called to have for each other. We are all to be copies of the love of Christ.. this is our motive. Whenever the police are trying to solve a crime, one of their first questions is, who had a motive to do this? In Christ, we have the motive to do love crimes. Our motive is: because Christ love us.
Notice that v35 talks about the reputation of our profession. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Agaph love is the badge of the Christian. In all of the old western movies, the sheriff had to wear his badge so tht everyone would know he was the sheriff. The Christian’s badge is love. By this badge others know them and they know themselves.
It is important that we know that we are Christians. The old question is: How do I know that I am saved? I can say tht I believe in Jesus, but how do I know that it is not just words, how do I know that I am actually saved? Do I have love. Do I love God, Do I love Jesus, Do I love others? That is how I know my status in Christ.
That is how others know us. Love is the color of a Christian. Love is the distinguishing characteristic of a disciple of Christ. This is the one thing in which we are to surpass everyone else. To be a Christian, you do not have to be smarter than other people. You do not have to be more beautiful or more charming, but you do have to be more loving.
This was what Jesus was famous for. All those folks in Palestine who heard him preach and teach heard his love, and so today people should see that we have affection for one another, and say, “They have been with Jesus.”
Christ taught his people a new song, the song of love, and this is the song that the true church sings down through the ages. We are called to excel in agaph love. Jesus says, this is the way people will know that you are my people.
We see an example of this in Acts 2 where we read, “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” (Acts 2:46-47). That is what a church is supposed to be. That is the kind of fellowship Christians are supposed to have.
Tertullian (c. 160–c. 230) speaks of it as the glory of the early church that the Christians were known by their affection to one another. Their adversaries took notice of it, and said, See how these Christians love one another (Apologeticus, c. 39.)
Let me talk about a more recent example. John L. Peterson [ “This I command you, to love one another,” October 10, 2003, Essays toward General Convention 2003 and Beyond, Rci.rutgers.edu.] writes:
Three years ago horrid ethnic tensions broke out in Guadalcanal. Many people lost their lives. Most foreign residents fled, but the Anglican Church in Melanesia stood firm. The outstanding Archbishop of Melanesia, Ellison Pogo, is one of the heroes of that conflict as he brought the warring factions together; but equally important is what the Melanesian Brotherhood did. These Brothers literally risked their lives by standing between the warring factions on the front line. They also had the trust of both sides. It was the Melanesian Brotherhood which has been disarming the people by collecting their guns and ammunition. Today in the Solomons there are weapons-free villages because of the Melanesian Brotherhood.
However, on Easter Day, the Brotherhood learned the price of being a peacemaker. One of their brothers, Nathaniel Sado, was killed by a rebel group. The Brotherhood then sent six brothers to find out what had happened and to ask for Brother Nathaniels body to be returned. Instead of returning with their Brother’s body, the six were taken prisoners and ultimately murdered.
Now that is the end of Peterson’s article. As you can see, it does not have a happy ending. We are not promised that this life will have a happy ending, but we are commanded to love one another. Certainly the Melanesian Brotherhood was and is doing that.
One more illustration and then I will quit. I was attriacted to this illustration because as I glanced at it I saw that it happened in York. It was not until I started reading that I realized that it happened in York Pennsylvania. In any case, this is from an article by Laura Giovanelli that appeared in the York (Pa.) Dispatch [“Practice loving one another,” October 22, 2002, York (Pa.)Dispatch, Yorkdispatch.com.] Giovanelli writes:
Debra Taylor wasn’t a minister, but she grew up with one. After her mother was murdered, it was her grandparents, the Rev. James Mosley and his wife, Beatrice, who raised her and her brother. Yesterday, the daughter of Lillie Belle Allen stood up and preached to York, a city she had avoided her entire life, and a city where she will never be happy to return to because of what it took from her. Taylor said she grew up defensive and angry about her mother’s death. But she is starting to let herself cry once in a while. “It’s past time to get along,” she said last night at a service sponsored by the York chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women at the Fairview Full Gospel Missionary Baptist Church. Be careful how you treat strangers, she gently advised a crowd of about 100. Be careful how you step over people you don’t know. “Just as we practice everyday chores, we need to practice loving one another,” she said.
Now as I read that article, and particularly as I read that last sentence, I thought, how right she is. Just as we have to learn to cook, learn to drive, we have to learn to love, and the only way to learn is to practice. So let us practice love, starting today. Amen.
LeDuff, Charlie. “Traffic tips for Los Angeles best taken with a pinch of Kimchi,” The New York Times, July 30, 2003, A11.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2003 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last modified 11/12/04