A Red Light At the Corner of Faith and Action

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) It was late at night, I was driving home from covering a game for the newspaper. I was at a red light. I looked to my left _ no one. I looked to my right. I was sitting at the light, wanting to make a right turn. Only there […]

c. 2007 Religion News Service

(UNDATED) It was late at night, I was driving home from covering a game for the newspaper.

I was at a red light.

I looked to my left _ no one.

I looked to my right.

I was sitting at the light, wanting to make a right turn. Only there was a big sign saying NO TURN ON RED. I have been at this intersection many times. And most of the time _ maybe 95 percent _ I don’t turn on red, even if it seems clear. But I was tired. It was late. The street was empty. So I turned right, drove a little ways, then pulled into a gas station. A police cruiser came out of nowhere, lights flashing. The officer approach my car and asked how I was doing.

I like to think of myself as honest. I even have told people, “I’m an honest person.”

At this point, I knew why the officer was at my window. As a self-proclaimed “honest person,” here was a chance to own up, put my faith in action.

Or at least say nothing.

Instead, I blurted, “I’m confused, why are you here?”

“Confused?” he said. “Have you been drinking?”

He leaned a little closer, probably trying to smell my breath.

I was tempted to say, “Hey, buddy, I don’t drink, but if you had to cover some of the teams that I have over the last 30 years in this town, you’d feel like knocking down a few shots of Old Panther Juice.”

Instead, I said I was sober. I said I was a sportswriter. I said I was on my way home from work.

He said, “You shouldn’t have made a right turn at that light.”

“Really?” I said.

“There’s a big white sign, NO TURN ON RED,” he said. “No way you could miss it.”

I claim to be Christian. I’m the “honest” guy, right? One of my favorite verses is from Matthew 5:37, where Jesus says, “Let your `yes’ be `yes’ and your `no,’ `no.”’

I was like too many other people, trying to wiggle out of the claws of the law, and saying almost anything to do it. And to think that I’ve been teaching weekly Bible classes to jail inmates for nine years, telling my guys how it’s “easier to tell the truth because you don’t have to remember all the lies.”

Ouch!

Instead, I acted like I had never spotted the sign before, and hunkered down even deeper in the bunker of denial as the officer checked my license and registration and probably ran my name through the computer to check for warrants.

He let me go. It was a Saturday night, and he explained that they really were checking for drunken drivers. He warned me to pay attention to the sign. I thanked him. In retrospect, I think he probably would not have ticketed me if I had told the truth, and I had a feeling that he suspected I had lied to him.

I thought about why Old Testament biblical stars such as Abraham and Jacob lied when in a tight spot. Or why Peter lied three times about knowing Jesus. Or why I’m not always the stand-up guy that I claim to be.

The next morning, I told the story to a couple of close friends after church. I really do believe that there is power in “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” That’s from the New Testament book of James. I prayed and asked for forgiveness. My friends prayed for me. I told some others the story, and a few nodded.

Then someone mentioned this from Proverbs 10:19: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

I knew that, too. I just didn’t listen.

(Terry Pluto writes for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland.)

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