“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6
A handsome church sat a little ways out of town, at one of those spots where fields replace buildings, and cars start going a little faster. In front of the church was an intersection that had seen more than it’s share of traffic accidents.
The church was thriving, but the intersection was not. In the past year, there had been a series of horrific accidents. One of them involved a school bus and a tractor-trailer; another involved two minivans, both filled with families and kids; yet another involved a drunk driver who slammed into a sedan driven by an elderly man, who — along with his elderly wife — was dead on the spot.
The community was fed up. The intersection, they said, needed some interventions, such as a fully-functional traffic light to replace the modest blinking light. Others suggested speed bumps, additional signs to alert people to the danger, or even a re-engineering of the road to create an overpass or perhaps gentle curves that would force drivers to slow down. The local newspaper supported these public safety changes and insisted that city and county leaders needed to act immediately.
The pastor of the handsome church, however, didn’t agree. “This isn’t a traffic issue,” he would say, with a mix of exasperation and solemnity. “It’s an issue of the human heart. Why do people drive so fast? Perhaps it’s an alcohol problem, or an issue of impatience. It’s sin. And you can’t pass laws to prevent people from sinning. Also, if you slow down the bad guys, that means the good guys also have to slow down, and that’s hardly fair.”
The pastor’s opinion carried a lot of weight. After all, the man was beloved by the thousands of people who attended the church every Sunday. The pastor had a good heart, they said. His point-of-view was certainly against popular opinion, and many just assumed he had superior insight, that he saw the potential problems better than others. So they, too, joined him in opposing any changes.
“Better to be cautious,” they’d say, “than to do something radical that might limit freedoms of drivers. Because once you do that, it just gets worse.”
Soon, church members began to find some comfort in the belief that doing nothing was better than acting rash. They viewed themselves as cautious and level-headed, unlike their neighbors and the local media who were embracing radical changes and limited freedoms. Some of the church members were city council members, and ultimately they voted against any changes to the road or the erection of additional traffic signs. “You can’t pass laws to prevent sin,” they announced when questioned about their votes.
The intersection remained as before. And every so often, a terrible accident happens out there. The pastor can actually see the flashing lights of ambulances and police cars from his church office window. After the latest accident, the pastor was quick to post on social media. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families,” he said.
And he didn’t do anything else, because really, nothing can be done, when you get right down to it.
Pray: That the U.S. will enact long-overdue gun control legislation. And after praying, contact your legislators and demand action.
Read: Matthew 23