Love Your Neighbor; Put Down The Phone; It’s The Law

Do you ever find yourself in a situation, unique to our times, wishing that Scripture spoke directly to your circumstance with Biblical advise for how you should respond? Due to the advancement of modern technology, it’s easy to imagine that the writers of Scripture might be shaking their heads right alongside us, wondering how to sort out the right path to take through our present-day puzzles. But Scripture was not authored by mere mortals, but by the Spirit of God, who knew from the beginning the questions we would be facing today, and our modern puzzles are no mystery to him.

Though Moses, Paul, and John may not have considered the intricacies of the internet, air travel, or driving a car, the principles of the Holy Spirit-inspired Scriptures they wrote apply to these and more. While we must ask for wisdom as we navigate our modern issues in the light of God’s word, this, as James makes clear, is a request our Father delights to answer (James 1:5). John Calvin gives an example of wisely applying the principles of Scripture when he digs into the Ten Commandments and finds there not only the prohibitions—the don’ts— but also the positive commands—the do’s—in each. Take, for instance, his exposition of the sixth Commandment, “You shall not kill” (Ex. 20:13). Not only does this prohibit the active taking of life, but, Calvin notes the reason for this commandment as the following:

“Scripture notes that this commandment rests upon a twofold basis: man is both the image of God, and our flesh. Now, if we do not wish to violate the image of God, we ought to hold our neighbor sacred. And if we do not wish to renounce all humanity, we ought to cherish his as our own flesh.”[1]

If we are, according to the sixth commandment, not only to not take another’s life, but to “hold our neighbor sacred,” and “cherish his as our own flesh,” we ought to be looking for ways to protect the lives of those around us, otherwise known as “loving your neighbor as yourself.”

Distracted Driving

For instance, I need not cite statistics or News reports when I say that using cell phones while driving—particularly texting, but generally any use involving handling and looking at the screen—is a dangerous activity that is proven to cause accidents resulting in harm and even death. This is undeniable fact. It may not happen every time a driver chooses to pick up their phone while behind the wheel, but the risk is real.

Christians, we must carefully consider the consequences of our actions, and distracted driving is an issue we must face every time we get behind the wheel of a car. Why do people persist in using their phones while driving when this is demonstrably dangerous—and in many states, illegal?

Pride

Too many drivers falsely believe that they are above or immune to the risks. They believe they are better drivers than others around them, that accidents won’t happen to them, that the occasional use of their phones is harmless, that they aren’t actually distracted when they use them, or that the call/text is too important to wait. This is not only self-deception, it is a prideful and potentially disastrous attitude to which Scripture replies:

Pride goes before destruction,
    and a haughty spirit before a fall. — Proverbs 16:18

Anxiety

Others may fear they are missing something important if they don’t check their incoming messages or reply to them immediately. They have become so used to the immediacy of contact allowed by their cell phones that they cannot wait until they have safely arrived at their destination, but must read and respond without delay.

Christian, if this is you, Jesus gave us clear remedies for our anxieties, which cover even the usage of our cell phones. Permit me to paraphrase:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what that text says, or how you will respond, nor about your incoming call, who it is from or what they want. Is not life more than the constant contact of texting and social media, and your relationships more than the next call? — Matthew 6:25

The answer to both pride and anxiety in using our phones (whether in the car or not) is humbly trusting God.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:6-7

It’s The Law

Finally, by refusing to use our phones while we drive we are obeying not only the laws of our local governments, but the Law of God.

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”   — Galatians 5:14

Loving our neighbors in this way is one of the many ways in which we may imitate the love of Christ. If you will permit one more paraphrase:

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our phones for the brothers. — 1 John 3:16

God has not left us on our own to struggle to obey without assistance, but has given his Spirit to all who are in Christ, making available the fruit of the Spirit through which we are strengthened and enabled to keep his Law.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. — Galatians 5:22

By putting our cell phones down we are obeying the 6th commandment, loving our neighbors: everyone on the roads around, and those in the car, with us. It will take patience and self-control in order for us to demonstrate the kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness of the Spirit, which will then result in love, joy, and peace as we arrive safely at our destinations, helping others to do likewise. This is love in action.

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. —1 John 3:18

[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. by Ford Lewis Battles, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960) II. viii. 40.

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