If you ventured to click and read this blog, most likely because you were wondering how anyone could link God with traffic!! I mean one is good and the other mostly bad. The actual definition of traffic is according to Meriam-Webster “The movement (as of vehicles or pedestrians) though an area or along a route” or “the information or signals transmitted over a communication system.” We talk about “stuck in traffic” so associate the word with negative when it is actually how we all move from point A to point B, in a system with many other people sharing the same routes.
I live in the St. Louis Metropolitan area, population of about 2,800,000 people. Thus, there are obviously lots of cars, especially since public transportation is available but not as extensive as some other larger cities.
There are accidents and deaths on streets and highways. But considering how many people are on the road every hour of every day, it is amazing that there are not more. These roads are controlled by an elaborate system meant to control the flow of traffic. How do you get this many people able to safely get from point A to point B with so many different people on the road?
Traffic signs, lights, rules, and traffic police.
Traffic signs and lights control who goes when and how at intersections. Red means stop, Green means go. Yield means, well, to yield. DO NOT ENTER is self- explanatory as is WRONG WAY. There are also traffic signs to give speed limits which are based on several factors. There are also traffic rules such as putting turn signal on when changing lanes on the highway or in town which indicates the car will be slowing down or moving into your lane. When it is raining or icy conditions, then need to drive slower.
Now, these systems do not come together randomly. There is intelligence behind it. Those who design systems for traffic are called traffic engineers and those who make the structures as transportation engineers. Both are specialties of civil engineering. Wikipedia defines both as such:
“Transportation engineering or transport engineering is the application of technology and scientific principles to the planning, functional design, operation and management of facilities for any mode of transportation in order to provide for the safe, efficient, rapid, comfortable, convenient, economical, and environmentally compatible movement of people and goods transport.
‘Traffic engineering is a branch of civil engineering that uses engineering techniques to achieve the safe and efficient movement of people and goods on roadways. It focuses mainly on research for safe and efficient traffic flow, such as road geometry, sidewalks and crosswalks, cycling infrastructure, traffic signs, road surface markings and traffic lights. Traffic engineering deals with the functional part of transportation system, except the infrastructures provided”
So, someone has to make the structures, deciding the correct materials, how much weight will bear, and such. Another group is concerning with the design in terms of flow of traffic, making it the most efficient and the safest. It is not easy to design a system that can move millions of people a day. Where did we get the intelligence to design such a system? We humans like to think we are brighter than we are. This system is made possible by God because He wants us to be safe and thus gave us people with the spiritual gifts to do such a difficult task.
Does nature provide such an elaborate system? Yes, it does through lakes, oceans, and rivers- the original transportation method. The waterway system is a marvel. Before modern engineering, it determined where people lived because both needed to be able to travel, as well as a water supply. Another elaborate transportation system are system of arteries and veins, as well as our nervous system. Both bodily functions involve a much more complex system of transportation goods (e.g., proteins, oxygen, nerve signals) than the most complex road system in the biggest cities. Thus, our human mind is only providing a pale copy of what God has designed for us, we have invented nothing completely novel.
But even with all that infrastructure, all that design, humans still do the wrong thing. Great design but not great judgment or insight, not great consideration for others. That is what traffic police attempt to do. The traffic police are there- although not possible to catch every wrong, - but as a reminder that there are rules in case a person is tempted to break them. They also stop cars and may give a traffic ticket as a penalty for breaking the law, to try to influence people to break them less often in the future. Too many tickets in a given period may result in you being sent to “traffic school” to re-instruct you of all the rules of the road and consequences, sometimes fatal, to those who break such traffic rules. Higher risk behaviors have stiffer penalties to make sure to especially discourage them or remove them from public roads, including loss of license or even prison.
As stated before, it is a small miracle that it all works as well as it does. I am sure that if you told someone in 1900 that millions of people in a given city would one day drive 4000-pound vehicles at up to 70 miles an hour, with mostly smooth coordination, that it would strike them as improbable as we consider living our entire lives on a planet other than Earth.
One of the reasons it works is that it is everyone’s self-interest to mostly follow these signs, lights, laws, and traffic rules. Not following them could result in 1) damage to car, 2) harm to one’s own body or another’s, 3) death or you or another, 4) losing one’s driver’s license, 5) increased insurance costs or even not being able to get insurance, 6) being sued to damage to someone else’s car or person, 7) tickets and fines. In other words, looking out after ourselves results in looking out for others. In addition, there are people who genuinely are concerned about in any way hurting another person, such as when driving past a school that has let students out. For those of conscious, even if no or little chance of being caught do not want to harm any property and especially not to harm a person.
Breaking traffic laws has financial and possible legal consequences. Yet, some people routinely do not drive safely or according to the rules. Driving while intoxicated is considered especially reprehensible because of the danger involved to self or others. Yet some people repeatedly, even after being caught, drink and drive. If you truly love, you do not want any of your actions to result in any type of harm to others.
These “rules of the road” are not malicious, not meant to control just for control’s sake, not the inventions of mad power hungry civil engineers that want to limit your “driving freedom.” Traffic cops do not give you tickets because they are bored or just want to again control your enjoyment or your “driving freedom.”
The rules are not arbitrary, not unnecessary, not put there simply because people in power have the power to do so and derive pleasure on making rules for others.
The traffic cop is not mad at you for breaking a traffic rule or law. The ticket is not punishment for punishment’s sake with no purpose.
If you drive poorly without regard for rules and you are in a car accident, it is not because the world hates you, that roads have conspired to punish you because you did not follow their arbitrary rules. The accident (if you are at fault) is going to naturally result in some damage. There are consequences to all behavior, ones that flow logically from them.
Now for the God analogy part, which you no doubt have been wondering if it would ever get around to discussing.
God uses the Bible and people in our lives to give us rules to live by, ones that if live by them will make our lives better as well as all the people that we interact with on a daily basis. The Bible is a guidebook to make your life better.
Now one can follow all the traffic rules and still be in an accident, an unexpected icy patch, an inattentive texting other driver. Similarly, being a good Christian does not guarantee life of no significant hardships. But how many of us are routinely not following God’s rules. Now, we might talk the Word, but we are not really following the Word? Then we wonder why having so many “tickets” so many “accidents.” Why is God doing this to us, why is He punishing us? Just because we are not following His arbitrary rules. How cruel and power hungry must this God be to demand blind obedience for blind obedience’s sake!
In addition to providing us the infrastructure (the trees, plants, air, water) for our life, there is a way our actions can work together for the common human benefit. For roads, these are the province of transportation engineers and traffic engineers. For life, they are the province of God.
But just like the best design can be spoiled by irresponsible and selfish behavior of drivers, we do not appreciate how things are set up for us to achieve. We need people in our lives who can call us out for our behavior before it harms us and the ones around us. We need people to be our “traffic police.” For children it might be a parent taking away a possession or privilege. For an adult, it might be taking away our behavior which is enabling negative behavior. It could be telling someone what they do not want to hear, even risking them being mad at us.
It is not a one-way street like a traffic cop giving us a ticket. We do not get to give the traffic cop a ticket for the breaking the speed limit to catch us! But in the world of Christians, we each take our turn being the traffic policeman and being the citizen violating the law. We must look after each other because we all drift from the true way. One day it is person X being the cop and Y the receiver. The next day it might be Y being the cop and X the receiver. With each of us keeping each other in check, the goal is for us to not drift as often or as severely. Think of it as the speed limit is 40 and instead of driving at 60 all the time, we go 50. Still not fully obeying the rules, but better than going 60. Or in some circumstances such as when it is raining, only going 40 because recognize situation where must be more cautious, must more closely follow the rules.
Back us not doing right, look at all the strife among people in cities- murder, greed, sexual exploitation, violence, mistreatment of the poor, theft, people having hatred toward those different than them. We are not following God’s law, our politicians are not, our leaders are not, and more times than should our ministers are not. We are not in order, our politicians are not in order, our leaders are not in order, and more times than should our ministers are not. We do not interact with each other according to God’s law. What is the result? - Chaos. Just as it would be road chaos if drivers stop following the traffic laws. That is the situation we find ourselves in, not just now but throughout the ages, in chaos. As with driving, it ultimately hurts us, and it also hurts those around us.
As with the traffic laws, signs, and traffic policeman, God is not designing some arbitrary rules and punishes us for not following them. He is not punishing just for the sake of doing it. He is trying to have us live our best lives and to love and cherish each other. He has provided us the infrastructure, the intelligence in planning, and people to monitor our behavior to insure we stay within God’s law. Yet, we resist, we do the equivalent of getting into bad accidents because we do not follow the traffic rules, repeatedly. Our “punishment” is a natural consequence of how we choose to live our lives.
As useful as the traffic analogy can be, it is not fully sufficient. We do not follow God’s law merely to be complying, to get His good favor, to avoid punishment. It is not a transaction “Okay, God I follow your laws and I get to a good life, right, I get to heaven.” To go to the traffic analogy one more time, suppose a person is told that this section of a city, county, or region has no traffic policemen anywhere. Even if one causes an accident or harms someone, there will be no policemen to fine you, ticket you, or arrest you. This person thinks they can now do what they want. Let’s see if this car can really get to 160 mph like the speedometer says. This person is only following the law out of fear of punishment. He does not understand WHY the laws exist, He does not truly believe these rules or laws are necessary.
The Bible and spiritual teachings are not simply a roadmap, as some have described it. A roadmap only tells you how to travel between two points. It does not tell you how you should interact with your fellow travelers. It is entirely self- focused whereas the guidance God provides us is mostly other focused.
So we SHOULD follow God’s commandments. We SHOULD attend church regularly. We SHOULD read our Bible. We SHOULD give our services to those who are less fortunate. God does want us to lead our lives in a certain kind of way, know importance of orders, and follow the rules and guidelines He has set.
But…. let us not be like the driver just doing the minimum. We follow God’s law because of our love for Him, as He loves us. Then the laws are not burdensome, not something we have to do, but rather what we should want to do. It is only by following the Word that can know true freedom, true happiness. As has been said many times before by many different people, we are not sinners because we break the law but we break the law because we are sinners.
There is the law and then there is the “spirit of the law”, with the latter being superior, the ones we Christians should walk in in our daily lives.
Thus, I will end with some Biblical verses about the spirit of the law.
“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code”. (Romans 7:6 ESV)'
“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”. (Romans 6:14 ESV)
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17 ESV)
“Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:1-18)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV)
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3 ESV).
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10 ESV)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”. (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV)