What do you do when you see a stop sign? Do you come to a complete stop, roll through, or simply disregard it? Why? How about other rules or laws? How do you decide what to obey and what not to? What is your “acceptable level of disobedience”?
I’ve been doing a lot of walking on the area sidewalks along the river and one section of the walk is through a fairly residential section of town. There is a stop sign at each intersection along the river road to try to keep traffic slowed down rather than having people use it as an express thoroughfare. On a recent walk I observed about thirty vehicles come down the street and encounter the series of four stop signs. Out of this number only one vehicle actually stopped at each sign! Most treated the signs as simply a suggestion — or perhaps as a yield sign. They slowed down and appeared to look for approaching traffic (or police cars) and then simply drove through without stopping. A couple of them didn’t even slow down and I have no idea if they even looked for the potential of crossing traffic.
As I watched, my mind kept going to the one guy that did stop and I wondered what was different about him. Why did he stop? What was his motivation to obey the law? Why do people decide to do what is right even when no one is looking and it would seem to make no difference? Is it because of the law, or something more?
How about God’s laws? Do we follow them? Do we ignore them? Or do we do some version of pick and choose — keeping the ones we like and ignoring the ones we don’t?
I think the answer to the “why” of the driver at the stop sign and our own obedience to God’s commands may be unnervingly similar! Many times we live life in the “slow down and look” mode. If we think no one is watching then we simply go ahead and do what we want. If someone is watching then we do the right thing for the sake of appearance or to stay out of trouble. Our obedience to the law is based out of fear. Occasionally we become so calloused that we don’t even care who is watching or what they think — we simply go on with what we want no matter what.
I believe the correct response in both scenarios is an obedience based on love and respect for the law-giver! When our obedience is built on this foundation then it is never up for question. We do what is right when people are watching and when they are not. I believe this is how Jesus could keep the law to perfection as he lived on earth as a man — he had perfect love and respect for His Father who established all law through Him. When I realize that God’s commands are for my good and to my benefit then I am eager to keep them even when I don’t understand why.
So what do you do when God’s Word says, “Stop!”? When His Word says, “Go!”? Do you slow down to see who is watching? Do you just fly on through life and ignore it? Or do you obey willingly out of love and respect for the One who issued the command?
I pray that you and I would be doers of God’s Word because of our love and respect for Him through our relationship with Jesus.