Turn Signals, Part I

November 9, 2014

Leviticus 19:17-18

Mark 12:28-34

Turn signals are among the things that I rant about the most. Feel free to ask my wife about that. Feel free to ask anyone that’s ridden in the car with me about it. Heck, feel free to ask anyone with whom I’ve had more that one conversation about that. It is my humble opinion that turn signals are the most important part of any driver’s routine. But what’s important about the turn signal is not that it’s signaling where someone is about to go. Rather, it’s about the person behind that wheel telling the other person what they’re about to do.

Getting upset while you’re driving is so easy to do. It takes almost nothing to get red in the face, put a certain finger in the air, and yell words you would never even mutter at church towards that driver going down the interstate.

The comedian Louis C.K. breaks this scenario down perfectly in his stand-up routine. Now, if you don’t know who Louis C.K. is, there are a couple of important things to note. First, you should know that is television show, which comes on the FX Network is brilliant. He’s been nominated, and won, a few Emmys at this point. Second, he is considered a “comedian’s comedian.” That means he gets along with everyone in the business. He supports his peers and is well respected throughout the comedy genre. Lastly, if you’re a parent, or aunt, or uncle, or grandparent, you should definitely screen anything Louis C.K. does before you let any child watch it. His stuff is not kid friendly, although there are some episodes of his show where he interacts with his kids and those lessons are priceless. But definitely, definitely screen his stuff before you let any child at all watch material by Louis C.K.

In one of his stand up routines, Louis starts talking about what he’s like behind the wheel of a car. He’s quick to note that when we are driving is when we should be our most compassionate, nice, and caring; because we are, in fact, driving a weapon. Think about that for a moment, that’s really true. However many pounds of steel, full of flammable chemicals, hurtling down the freeway at 60 + miles per hour? That’s a dangerous scenario. In this routine, Louis says, “One time, I was driving, and there was a guy ahead of me, he kind of – I don’t know – sort of drifted into my lane for a second? And this came out of my mouth, I said, ‘Worthless piece of … [expletive].’” Then he pauses for the crowd to laugh, because it is funny.

Then, he goes on to say, “What an indictment. What kind of way is that to feel about another human being? … That’s somebody’s son! And things I’ve said to other people!” And then he lists some other things he’s said about people. Then, he, seemingly thinking out loud, says, “Where outside of a car is that nearly OK?” He goes on and says those pieces of glass and metal that separate us change everything. We yell at each other. We curse at each other. We completely separate ourselves from each other. But… where outside of a car is that OK?

 

Jesus tells us that out of all the commandments, there are two that are the most important. Out of the entire Torah, the books of Law for the Jewish religion, there are two that stand out above all. First, “… love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” That one makes sense. Love our God with our complete being. Every part of your essence, from physical to mental to spiritual should love God. That makes sense to us. “No problem there,” we think. “I can love God with my entire being.”

The second commandment seems simple enough to us as well. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But then we start talking about politics and things change. We start cheering for a sports team and things change. We get behind the wheel of a car and things change.

The problem with loving our neighbors as ourselves in today’s day and age is basic in premise. We have a hard time seeing others as neighbors. Because what Jesus meant when he was talking about a “neighbor,” was not just the person next door or across the street or at the end of the cul de sac. A neighbor is any other human being you come in contact with. Any other human being that you experience in any way. That human being is your neighbor.

Ok, yes, we still get that. That part is still easy to understand. Identifying a neighbor, a human being, is not challenging. But what is challenging is loving that neighbor as you love yourself. The thing about loving someone like yourself is that you have to elevate that person to a level on which you hold your own being. In other words, we are to treat each other in a way that we ideally want to be treated. When we run into someone on the street, what we should be thinking is, “If that person were me, how would I want to be treated?”

This is where it turns for us. Because so often, we find ourselves treating other people how we expect to be treated. Our society already has a system set up to how we should expect to be treated. In our day-to-day interactions, we can guess what will happen to us if we act in a certain way. And we act accordingly. This is how we interpret that second commandment now: We should treat our neighbors how we expect to be treated. But what Jesus was imploring us to do was treat our neighbors, as we want to be treated.

We are supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. That means, no matter what the situation, no matter the consequence, that we are to treat each other how we want to be treated. When I have an interaction with another person, I think to myself, “If this were me, how could I be treated best right here, right now?” What is the ideal for how we would want to be treated? This makes that commandment more challenging.

The simple fact of the matter is that when we stop and think about this commandment, we know we fail. It is possibly the most challenging instruction Jesus gave to us. Putting a fellow person on the same level that we hold ourselves is incredibly difficult. It’s difficult because we know they’re a different person, and not us. I can’t think of someone behind the wheel of a different car as the same as me. I can’t think of someone that cheers for a different team than I do the same as myself. I can’t think that someone who sits across party lines during an election could be the same as me.

But Jesus wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves. And there’s something special about Jesus wanting us to do something. That special thing is that Jesus knows we can do it. Jesus was fully divine but also fully human. Jesus had the same temptations as us. Jesus lived the same mortal life as us. And Jesus showed us how to live that life. Every commandment Jesus gave was intentionally given to point us in the right direction. What’s more important than that, Jesus knew that we could do it. If we look through the commandments of Christ, we’ll find they’re all attainable. Whether directed to a crowd, a Pharisee, or the disciples, these commandments were given with the knowledge that the humans hearing them could rise to the challenge.

That’s the good news of this message! We can do it!

We can treat others as we would treat ourselves!

We can love someone just as much as we love our self!

We can fulfill this commandment!

Jesus showed us how to do it, so let’s do it! It’s hard. It’s challenging. It’s not fun. But it is the second most important commandment. Go forth and use your turn signals. Use your turn signals because you know the other person in the car is just as much of a person as you. Use those turn signals, because in an ideal world, with ideal interactions, we would all use turn signals all the time.

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