One of the most confusing decisions for a driver is whether or not it is legal to make a U-turn at any given intersection.
In some situations, there will be a sign that clearly says, “No U-Turn;” or it will have the symbol for a U-turn with a Ghostbusters sign over it (which I understand because I saw the movie…in the theatre).
In other situations, there will be a sign that says, “U-Turn Permitted,” which means that you can do a U-turn without having to worry about any legal repercussions. You can even roll down your window and give a hearty “Whoo-hoo!” as you do it if you like that sort of thing.
In most intersections, however, there is no sign telling you whether a U-turn is allowed or not allowed. What in the world am I supposed to do in those situations? It would be nice if there were a third kind of sign for every other intersection that said, “Use Your Best Judgment,” or “We Really Don’t Care What You Do Here,” or even, “We Ran Out of Signs,” but we are simply left to wonder what might happen if and when we decide make a U-turn in these areas.
In general, if there is no sign, I operate under the “Go for it…unless there’s a policeman nearby, in which case, don’t go for it until he’s gone” policy. Since I’ve never been pulled over for an illegal U-turn, I would say that my policy is awesome.
The Christian life can be like this, can’t it?
In some situations, we know exactly what to do because God has either given us a command or an example of what to do. For example, when it comes to how we are supposed to treat our fellow Christians, we don’t have to wonder about that. We are commanded to love them (Jn. 13:34-35; 15:12,17; Rom. 12:10; I Th. 4:9; I Pet. 1:22; I Jn. 3:11,23; 4:7,11,12; 2 Jn. 1:5; etc.). This is not up for debate, discussion, or disagreement; it is clear.
In other situations, we know exactly what NOT to do because God has been very plain about it. For example, we know NOT to lie to people, because God has told us not to do that (Col. 3:9). We don’t have to wonder if it is ever “ok” to lie, because God has been specific. In fact, if we engage in this activity, we already know where we will spend eternity (Rev. 21:8).
But there are other situations that are more difficult to figure out. There are “intersections” in life that seem to have no clear “sign” telling us what to do. There are areas where we may wish that God had been more clear, succinct, or thorough.
One of these areas – at least, for me – is the area of how I should think of myself.
In Romans 12:3, we are told that a person is “…not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment…” The natural question might be, “Ok, exactly HOW HIGHLY am I supposed to think of myself?” At first glance, this seems very subjective, doesn’t it? After all, if it isn’t spelled out exactly, who’s to say whether or not I’m doing it right or wrong?
In my opinion, this is a situation where we have to look for “signs” in other parts of Scripture that help inform this command. Here are a few other guides as we try to obey this important command:
We are supposed to love ourselves – Mt. 19:19; Mt. 22:39; Mk. 12:31; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; Js. 2:8 – An integral and foundational component contained within the second greatest command is the fact that we must love ourselves! After all, if we don’t love ourselves, how will we know how to love our neighbor? Does this mean that we are to do the things that make us “happy,” or that we should always “feel” good about ourselves? Not according to the definition of the word translated “love,” which means, “affection, good will, benevolence” (Strong’s Definition), and “the quality of warm regard for and interest in another” (BDAG Lexicon). This is the kind of love that is described in I Corinthians 13, which is a passage that we often use to gauge our treatment of others; but do we exhibit this kind of love for ourselves? Interestingly, we find within this description of love the same idea from Rom. 12:3 when we read, “love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way…” (vs. 4-5). This is very helpful as we try to read the “signs” concerning how we think of ourselves! In other words, do I intentionally seek what is in my best interests, spiritually, even when those interests go directly against what I really WANT to do? If I think too highly of myself, I am likely to trust my own desires instead of allowing God to direct my steps!
We are supposed to have an appreciation for the depth of our sinfulness – I Tim. 1:15 – Paul thought of himself as the “foremost” or “chief” of sinners, which is from a Greek word that means, “first in rank; principal.” Paul is realistic and honest about his sinful past, making no effort to whitewash, sugarcoat, or downplay it. Here is a question for all of us, though: “Did Paul’s sins contribute MORE to the crucifixion of Jesus than MINE do?” Another question might be: “Did Paul’s sins separate Him further from God than MINE do?” The answer to both of these questions is “no.” Perhaps Paul is suggesting an attitude towards our “old man of sin” that would be healthy for ALL of us to have. If we all see ourselves as the “worst sinner ever,” we are much more likely to appreciate Jesus even more, and less likely to think “too highly” of ourselves! As one writer has suggested: “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope” (Timothy Keller, “The Meaning of Marriage”).
We should never feel that we have “arrived” – I Cor. 10:12; Eph. 4:15; I Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18 – The Bible is filled with commands to “grow” in our faith, knowledge, salvation, etc. This is a lifelong process that we should never stop participating in! When we start to feel as if we no longer “need” Bible study, prayer, Christian fellowship, correction, discipline, or accountability, we run the risk of “thinking too highly” of ourselves.
Let me conclude these thoughts with two more questions: when was the last time you actually admitted that you were wrong about something? When was the last time you said, “I’m sorry.”
Think about it.
When was the last time someone called you out for something that you said or did, and you actually admitted that you were wrong? We all tend to go through life thinking that we’re “ok,” but we’re not.
When we think we’re “ok,” even in the face of legitimate correction (either from someone who loves us, or from God’s Word), we have become guilty of “thinking too highly of ourselves.”
Repentance is supposed to be a LIFESTYLE for the Christian, not an EVENT.
In other words, U-turns are not only permitted for Christians, they are absolutely necessary! In fact, if you and I haven’t made a spiritual U-turn in a while, it’s probably time to reevaluate our life!