It is good to confess sin and mend the way one lives. I confess that I have not always buckled my seat belt. Of course there was a time for this octogenarian when there were no seat belts in a car. However, even after they were installed I resisted using the belt on the basis that requiring it to be fastened impinged upon my personal freedom. Besides, it was not always comfortable. Then I took the time to learn about the value of the buckled seat belt. Also I became Chaplain for the Ohio State Patrol. It occurred to me that the safety of myself and the riders in my car depended upon the use of the belts. In addition, I thought that it would be embarrassing to have a Trooper stop me and write a ticket. Did I have a responsibility for my own safety and the safety of others in the car, and my family members? Yes! But I realized that even though it was a small matter compared to other actions I did have a responsibility to present the best possible image in the role I was privileged to have as part of the Patrol family.
This led me to the verse from the Letter of James. We read in James 4:17: "Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." It is my opinion that this applies to me whether or not someone is watching me. We never know when we are setting an example for others. My wife hears me mutter every time I observe a driver ignoring a certain stop sign in our development. Yes, the driver can see down the road and when no car is approaching which would impede his or her movement the logical action might be to drive right through the curve and ignore the word "Stop." Linda wonders why this bothers me. It is not just a matter of obeying the law. It is the example which is being set for the youth who cannot help but observe, and all too often copy such action.
A number of years ago I stood with a judge at an intersection in Westerville. The traffic light was red for us. However there were no cars at the intersection, nor were any in sight no matter which direction we might look. I did not know whether to suggest that we cross rather than wait for the light to change. After all, there were no officers to issue tickets to a judge and pastor for jay walking. We stood in silence for a brief time and then the judge spoke up. He said, "You know I challenged a young child for crossing against the light the other day. But that child put me to shame by saying that he thought it was all right to go against the light when no cars were coming because he saw me do it. We never know who is watching, do we pastor?" No we do not.
Whether we are sworn officers of the law with a badge to keep from tarnishing, or just individuals in the daily living of our lives, we do have a responsibility for how we act each moment of each day. In one of the short books of the Bible we read: "Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching (living) show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censored, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us." (Titus2:7)
Do I fasten my seat belt? Yes--along with others in the car I am driving. Am I guilty of "rolling stops"? No, much to the dismay of some behind me. Do I ever drive over the speed limit? Well...very seldom. However if you see me doing so do not hesitate to stop me and quote the verse from James.
Live by the Core Values--in or out of uniform--and set an example for others.
Richard D. Ellsworth