A couple of years ago, I was working at a camp in Macon, Ga., and it was the weekend. A group of friends from our team decided to attend an Atlanta Braves game for the night.
On our way home from the game, we got stuck in traffic. While waiting in the traffic, I decided I would pull out my cell phone and respond to some of my text messages.
Two of the passengers in the back told me to stop texting because it scared them. I reluctantly put the phone away, but after a few minutes I tried to sneak it out of my pocket to resend the previous text.
One of the passengers saw me and angrily told me to stop texting while driving because it was dangerous and put lives at danger.
I thought both passengers were overreacting at the time, but sitting here today I cannot help but be thankful for their rebuke.
Since that incident, I have thought long and hard about texting while driving.
There are many stories and statistics that reveal the pitfalls of the epidemic. In 2011, over one-third of drivers (37 percent) sent or received text messages while driving, and 18 percent said they did it regularly.
In addition, the University of North Texas Health Science Center revealed that texting while driving resulted in 16,141 deaths during the period of 2001-07.
I have fallen victim to texting while driving many times, but since that night I have become more and more aware of how ethical texting while driving really is.
For Christians, texting while driving should be an ethical decision. On the one hand, Jesus instructs us to “love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, strength and soul. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 23:37-38). Choosing to text while driving is not only dangerous, but it is also disobedience to the command to love God with our whole selves.
The statistics are clear and the stories are real: Texting while driving leads to deadly results. If we have this knowledge and know its potential effect on our lives, why would we continue to risk the very lives God gave us?
In addition, Jesus commands those who follow him to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 23:39). How can we love others if we are putting their lives in danger? Indeed, how can we love ourselves if we are putting our own lives at risk?
Texting while driving is again disobedience of this command, which would obviously put it in direct violation of the two greatest commandments in the Bible.
As followers of Christ, what are we to make of this reality? Should we merely ignore Jesus’ words and mark them as irrelevant since cell phones and automobiles did not exist when he said these words?
Absolutely not! If we are going to be self-professing followers of Christ, we must always do what is right.
We must always be the kind of people who are aware of the consequences of decisions that are not thought out and prayed over. We must always be the kind of people who actively consider how our choices honor or dishonor God. And we must always be the kind of people who look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
Texting and driving may be a new phenomenon, but for Christians it should be judged like all other issues: How am I loving God and others with my actions?
It is not enough to “be careful” or “avoid looking down while typing.”
The Christian must be aware that life is a gift, and when we exploit or risk that gift for a moment to respond to friends or colleagues who can wait, we disobey God and we dishonor our neighbors.