Over the years I have run several (at least) red lights. I can honestly say never intentionally (I am a rule follower by nature), but still I have been at risk — for financial consequences and worse yet, for accidents.
My first ticket was for pushing the limit on a yellow light at age 16. The officer called it a red light violation, while I argued that it was a yellow light save. I lost. (The concept of grace is generally more alive in churches than in the traffic courts.) Probably if I was really honest with myself, I secretly knew that I had crossed a line I shouldn’t have – a limit line that was clearly marked.
When we get caught for violations at first we might feel victimized, but in truth (after having calmed down) we can admit that the intent of the imposed boundaries are there to protect us and others. What if running that yellow (OK red) light had resulted in an accident? I could have been hurt or hurt others.
It is the same with moral, relational, financial and physical limits.
This is not a diatribe against risk – reasonable risk in many areas of life is healthy and necessary – it is about knowingly crossing into danger zones hoping not to have to pay a price.
Affairs, gambling, drinking and driving, binging and purging, raging, overspending, lying, cheating, stealing, violence and on and on are all clear boundaries violations. Each time I step over the line I put myself and/or others at risk.
Unfortunately many people have grown up without a clear understanding of where the lines should be drawn. It still amazes me that so many students don’t believe that cheating in school is wrong – or that sex outside of marriage is a moral violation. But it’s even sadder when we are clear about these things and choose to ignore our own values.
Fortunately there are also those yellow lights. They serve as warnings that we have not yet reached the point of no return. They tell us that putting on the brakes is probably a good decision. Our conscience is our yellow light. When we spend time in the Word we are clarifying and strengthening our yellow lights. When we associate with people with good values we are building up our storehouse of wisdom. The prophet Isaiah warns us to listen to the wisdom of others and not rely on our own.
Isaiah 50:11 (NLT)
But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires.
This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon fall down in great torment.
We cannot avoid all pain in life – it will happen because we live in a broken world. But we do have a certain amount of control over some of our pain – the kind we create by intentionally running red lights.