Which Way? One Way!5 min read

I know people who don’t like to drive in downtown Kalamazoo because there are too many one-way streets. Whether that’s you or not, I think we would all agree that sometimes we find one-way streets frustrating, and perhaps disconcerting (am I really on a one-way street or not, and if so, am I going in the correct direction. . . which way are the parked cars facing?). One-way streets force us to cooperate, and they feel limiting. But they are reality, and rebelling against the limitation can be deadly! I’ll never forget driving east on I-94 one day on my way to Ann Arbor and seeing a little red Dodge Neon going westward, driving at full speed toward me and everyone else in the eastbound side of the divided highway. The car was in the far left fast lane and everyone, including me, was moving over into the far right lane and even onto the shoulder to get as far from the oncoming car as possible. I watched the Neon in my rearview mirror for a time and eventually saw an eastbound vehicle that never did move over and a head-on collision that sent red car parts flying in all directions. I don’t know if the driver was suicidal, stoned, or just rebellious, but at least in the end they could say “I did it my way.”

The Bible vs. Our Sinful Nature

The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). Our sinful human nature doesn’t like being told what we can and cannot do. Our post-modern culture revels in rebellion and loves to go against convention, traditional values, and anything that people once deemed “normal.” Why should we be limited to the societal standards and expectations of days gone by? Even the President of the United States said the other day that “personal freedom is the foundation of America.” So let’s break free from the bonds of propriety from past generations and be free to do whatever we want to do in this more liberated and enlightened generation. My conscience can be my guide, along with whatever feels good and whatever I consider to be my own thing. No one has a right to tell me what’s right, or judge me over what they consider to be wrong. No one should be able to put limitations on my body or on my behavior. I’m not accountable to anyone but myself. I’m a god unto myself. That is the way that seems right to me, and it is seeming to be more and more right to me as time goes on.

Selfish vs. Considerate

But all this is purely subjective, and frankly really selfish. Sure, I can choose to do my own thing and go the wrong way on a one-way street, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still objectively the wrong way and will eventually result in harm to both me and my neighbor. When it comes to morality and ethics, the overriding consideration should not simply be what I personally want, or feel I have a right to do, but rather what is in the best interest of others. I like to say, “my freedom stops where your nose begins.” I would also like to say that the foundation of America (the “soul of America”) is not merely personal freedom but consideration for others. I’m not sure if that’s true of America or not, but the Bible certainly speaks this way. To the Corinthians (who lived in a very immoral culture), St. Paul quotes their popular slogan: “All things are lawful” but then he adds, “but not all things are helpful… not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Corinthians 10:23–24). Likewise, to the Philippians Paul wrote: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4).

A Better Way

God is a God of order and not chaos. He says, “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). He gives us rules for a reason. God wants the rule of Law and “civil righteousness” for all people, even those who deny His existence, for the sake of a good society and temporal stability in this world. It’s the left hand Kingdom of God, the State (not the Church). “Good government” is part of what Luther includes in his explanation of our “daily bread” (the 4th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer) in his Small Catechism. But finally, the Law only goes so far. God uses it to curb our selfishness, to show us our sin, and to guide us in godly living, but it doesn’t ever save anyone for eternity. For that we need a better way—Yahweh! We need God not only to show us the way to live peacefully in this world but to show us the only way by which we can have eternal life. For that He promised and sent His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came into this world and kept the Law perfectly, and then He laid down His sinless life for us on the cross and paid the full death penalty price for our rebelliousness and sin. Risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, Jesus has gone to prepare a place in the Father’s house for all who trust in Him as their only Savior. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6). Certainly that sounds too limiting and too exclusive for our current culture, but it is reality nonetheless. The road to eternal life is indeed a one-way street.

Let us pray: “O God, the helper of all who call on You, have mercy on us and give us eyes of faith to see Your Son that we may follow Him on the way that leads to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

Photo © Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

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About the Author

Rev. Dr. Paul R. Naumann currently serves as Senior Pastor at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Portage, Mich. During his over thirty-five years of ministry, Naumann has been active in positions in the Circuit, District, and Synod, working especially in the areas of Youth Ministry, Outreach, Worship, Campus Ministry, and Small Group Ministry. He has been published in various periodicals and has been a speaker at a number of seminars and workshops.

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Mary Craaybeek - July 18, 2023

So very well expressed as you address these times, Rev. Dr. Naumann! Thank you!