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The Gospel & Road Rage

July 9, 2012 by Larry Lazarus 0 comments

Posted in: Christian Living

In my sermon yesterday, I made the point that what we truly believe about God is demonstrated by our lives. James says, "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18). If our lives reveal what we truly believe about God, one implication is that where we sinful attitudes or actions in our lives, it is revealing that we are believing lies about God rather than the truth about Him.

Underneath every act or attitude of sin is a failure, in the moment of temptation, to trust in the truth of who God is, what He has done in Christ, and what He promises to do for those who are in Christ by faith. I said that I would offer a few practical examples of what that looks like in daily life. So here is one that I experienced this past weekend.

My family and I were driving in Michelle's hometown on Saturday, and I needed to get over into the right lane to make a turn. As I put my blinker on and checked my mirror, the driver who was in the right lane saw me trying to get over, and sped up to prevent me from being able to make the lane change. I was able to get in after he passed by me, and just barely was able to make the turn.

lane-changeI am a pretty mild-mannered guy I think. But when someone on the road sees a person trying to change lanes and intentionally speeds up to prevent a person from being able to do that, it makes me want to physically hurt that person! So I had a little taste of "road rage" on Saturday morning in Whitehall, PA.

Anger is a sin. Jesus said,

"21You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire." (Matthew 5:21-22)

I was definitely angry with this driver on Saturday, and in my heart I was probably calling him worse things than a fool. So what was I failing to believe about God and about myself in light of God's truth in that moment? Two things come to mind.

First, I was failing to believe that God is a just, righteous, holy God who will punish sin. My anger (even just the insults I was pondering in my mind, or the cutting remark about him that I made to Michelle) were an attempt to punish this thoughtless driver. I was hoping that my belittling his character would in some way exact payment for the way that he had wronged me.

road-rageI was trying to take justice into my own hands, rather than leave it to God, trusting that He is good and righteous, and that He does not leave any sin unpunished: "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”" (Romans 12:19).

If this man's thoughtlessness on the road was a symptom of a proud, self-absorbed, unbelieving heart, God will take care of that man's sin with everlasting punishment in the lake of fire. I don't need to take the matter into my own hands. God would, without question, set it right.

If, on the other hand, this man was a believer in and worshiper of Jesus, who was just having a bad day, then Jesus Christ bore the punishment for his selfish driving on the cross. Either way, justice was served. The wrong either has been, or will be, set right, by a perfectly holy and just God. I didn't need to try to pay this man back with my anger. The failure to embrace that in the moment is a part of what led me to the sin of anger.

A second truth also came to mind. In getting angry with this man, there was self-righteousness and pride in my own heart. As I pondered his callous indifference to my need to make a right turn, I was subtly saying to myself, "How rude and thoughtless...I would never do that sort of thing!"

Here again, the truth of the gospel was needed to break through the lie undergirding my sin. Because the truth is, apart from God's grace in Christ, I am that rude and thoughtless:

"We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy..." (Titus 3:3-5).

unbeliefApart from the goodness and loving kindness poured out to me through Jesus, I too am a slave to malice, hatred and folly. But God has saved me, not because of my thoughtfulness on the road, but because of His own mercy. I had no grounds for feeling superior to this driver on Saturday morning. And knowing the riches of God's mercy to me when I was passing my days in malice, self-absorption and hatred should empower me to demonstrate the same sort of kindness to one who was showing a form of hatred to me.

So, that is my story. Road rage is pretty common. But , as common as it is, it is a sin that is rooted in a failure of belief. It was not trying hard to refrain from anger, but the truth of God's holiness and mercy that set me free from the power of road rage.

On Wednesday, I'll tackle the subject of how faith in God empowers us to defeat the sin of envy.

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