Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Your Light Changed...Why Are You Still Sitting Here?

In a rural town of a few hundred people lies an intersection. It is the main intersection of the town. It boasts of the town's only traffic light. Not a full grown traffic light. Just a single light that faces four directions and flashes red on and off. No one knows how old the light is and no one is interested in upgrading it.

More often than not, the light doesn't work. It is, in fact, so normal for the light NOT to work that a knee-high, homemade four-way stop sign welded into an old wheel is always on stand-by next to the town's only fire hydrant. The first local to discover that the flashing light isn't working gets to wheel the stop sign into the middle of the intersection and brag about it the rest of the day.

Contrast that traffic light with those that exist in larger cities. The average traffic light has three bulbs with eyelids. They are responsible for thousands of cars and do their job with efficiency. Their bulbs are always fresh and their boxes are well maintained.

Some are even smart enough to know when one lane has traffic and the other lanes don't. Others are equipped with FOUR lights so that they can provide a helping hand/arrow to the cars that want to turn at the intersection.

The newest traffic lights have taken a course in photography and can take your picture if you disregard the red signal. They can also mail you a ticket to let you know how seriously they take their job.

I'm quite certain of two things at this point. One, you have no idea why I'm talking about traffic lights. Two, every person that reads this devotional could tell me what three colors are in a traffic light and what they each mean. (No, yellow does not mean, "go faster").

What would happen if we snuck into that little town at night and replaced the worn-out blinking red light with a brand new, three-color light with eyelids and arrows? The locals would have a fit! It would be the talk of the town. While a few might welcome the change, most would agree that it was highly unnecessary and obtrusive.

I can hear them now:
"I didn't get to vote on that fancy new light!"
"I don't need a light telling me when I can and cannot turn left!"
"My great-grandfather worked on that old red light. It was good enough for my grandparents and parents. It's good enough for me."
"My kids can't wait to grow up and roll the old stop sign into the street. What am I supposed to tell them?"

Now let's take that old flashing red light and corresponding knee-high "mobile" four-way stop sign and put them in a big city intersection.

Can you hear it:
"Hey!!! Where'd that piece of junk come from?"
"A blinking red light? Are they nuts? Where's my arrow?"

Why all this talk about traffic lights? It raises an interesting parallel to the issues churches face when dealing with change. Some churches refuse to change and get what they ask for. Nothing changes. Other churches welcome and foster change because it helps them grow.

Progress and growth require change. We just have to be cautious of extremes. Some churches change NOTHING. Their motto is, "If it ain't from the '50's, don't ya dare bring it in here." Other churches change EVERYTHING, including their doctrine. They allow changes in society to dictate changes in polity. Their motto is, "Just tell us what you don't like, and we will reinterpret it to make us all feel better."

But the evolving traffic light can shed some light on positive change. The purpose of the traffic light is to direct traffic and help people avoid accidents. To rush through the blinking red light in the small town without stopping is equal to running a red light in a big city. Either way, you break the law. At either intersection, you jeopardize the lives of others.

Is the old timey blinking red light better because it is older? No. In fact, if that town were to grow, that old light would have to go or someone could get hurt.

Is the fancy light with four bulbs, eyebrows, and a camera evil? Not at all. It stands for the enforcement of the same rules as the old red light. It is a necessary upgrade to enable growth, but it doesn't compromise the message. Red still means STOP.

Some churches sing songs out of a book from another century or several decades back. That's fine. Other churches have "singin' on the wall" with songs written yesterday. That's fine, too. Those aren't the real issues. The real issues are loving God, loving others, and obeying God's Word without compromise.

I've said enough for now. Think about the traffic lights and let's have some healthy discussions in our churches about the road we're on and the direction we are heading, and stop fussing about the number of bulbs in our traffic lights.

This may be news to some of you, but...

There IS a GREEN...and it means GO!

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