Summary: Uses the metaphor of driver’s education to explore St. Paul’s understanding of personal holiness as it relates to corporate solidarity and ecclesial unity.
BUMPER TO BUMPER ON THE HIGHWAY OF HOLINESS
INTRO. A COMMON HIGHWAY: DRIVERS EDUCATION FOR CHRISTIANS
I was driving to Chicago a couple of weeks ago and I happened to get on the Dan Ryan Expressway just about the time of rush hour was ending. Now I don’t know if you have ever had the occasion to attempt this feat, but it is a real thrill. What happens is the traffic thins out just enough that everyone is able to move at a normal speed – which on the Ryan is somewhere between 65 and 80 m.p.h. Because there is still a substantial amount of traffic, however, everyone is moving at these speeds packed in bumper to bumper.
As I was driving along with everyone else a real unnerving thought entered into my mind. I realized that I was entrusting my health and safety to the safe driving of hundreds of thousands of other people. For example, if the guy in front of me over-corrected in his steering or was distracted by something on his radio, the resulting accident would endanger not only him and not only me, but the hundreds of other cars around us. We would simply be traveling too close together and going too fast to avoid causing damage to one another. The best way to negotiate this situation is to stay alert and drive as safely as you can.
This brings me to a similar thought concerning our relationship with Christ and with each other as members of his Body. You see, on one hand, we are all going through life at a high rate of speed. Life is short. On the other hand, the fact that we are all members of the Body of Christ creates a natural closeness and interconnectedness that is very much like the bumper to bumper situation on the Ryan Expressway. Accidents and personal sins effect more than those persons most immediately involved. Because of this, a good deal of our motivation for living a life of personal holiness ought to come from a concern for the purity and safety of the Body of Christ around us. Lets look at how the letter to the Ephesians teaches us this very point.
I. HOW NOT TO LIVE/ HOW NOT TO DRIVE (vv. 17-19)
* When I was sixteen I attended drivers education classes at my high school. One of the first things the instructor did was show us a film of gory accident footage. You have probably seen or heard of some of these movies “Blood Flows Red on the Highway” or “Red Asphalt”. The idea is to sensitize young people to the danger and responsibility of driving. Paul does a similar thing here. He shows us how empty and degrading existence is when people are separated from the life of God.
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
Notice a couple of things here. . .
A. (v. 17) So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord . . . Paul is speaking here as an Apostle of the Lord. What he is about to say by way of instruction carries with it as much authority as if it came from the mouth of God.
B. (v. 18-19) Paul connects the immoral behavior of unbelievers to the condition of their heart. A persons outward behavior reveals the inner disposition of their hearts. People do not become sinners when they sin. People sin because they are sinners.
C. (v. 19) Immorality gets progressively worse because we are desensitized. Paul urges us not to Live this way. Why?
II. HOW TO DRIVE (vv. 20-24)
20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
A. (v. 20) Remember Paul connects outward behavior to the inward condition of the heart. He urges us not to live in immorality because we are now living in a right relationship with Christ. Living in immorality would now put us in conflict with our new principle of life in Christ.