Living in London has changed my perspective on driving.
When I took driver’s education in Maryland back in 1978, our instructors repeatedly urged us to be “defensive drivers,” that is, to anticipate dangers and avoid disasters. I understood what this meant, but I must admit that I was more preoccupied with the wonderful freedom of getting around than with safety. How wonderful it was to have wheels and the ability to get from one place to another! When I got married and had children, my attitude began to change as I began toting precious cargo with me.
When we arrived in London five years ago, driving was one of our big challenges. I had 18 years of experience driving on the left side of the road, but the extra road rules and the massive traffic patterns in our city were daunting to say the least! The concept of defensive driving became as vital as ever. But I also discovered a new paradigm that I call “cooperative driving.”
London is a massive city with lots of traffic and many small side roads that, with cars parked on both sides, only permit one car to pass. If two vehicles approach one another on such roads, one of them must pull off into a vacant spot to let the other one pass. Most drivers flash their high beams to signal for you to proceed or to express their appreciation as they go by. In heavy traffic areas, London drivers tend to be particularly kind about letting others into their lane.
Watching this in action often reminds me of they way bees buzz around a hive or a flock of birds swoop about without bumping into each other—like a symphony of movement. More significantly, it reminds me of the way the body of Christ should operate. The New Testament is replete with commands that urge us to live in harmony, like all the "one another" statements. A quick look at Romans 12 gives us a slew of verses about cooperative living:
Outdo one another in showing honor (v.10)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them (v.14)
Live in harmony with one another (v.16)
Repay no one evil for evil (v.17)
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (v.18)
Problems in the church abound when we live in the flesh with immature and selfish motives, whether we’re striving to be noticed, vying to be first, or merely to be independently satisfied with our own work. This is not unlike the thoughtless driver or the speed demon on the highway who makes driving difficult for everyone else. This kind of living brings no glory to Jesus. In His high-priestly prayer, He expresses His deep desire for our cooperation and unity:
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17.20-21, ESV)
So, what do “cooperative disciples” look like? They look out for each other, care for each other, and lift each other up. They work together in harmony, not competing or clamoring for attention. They’re even willing to lay down their lives for one another (1 John 3.16). It may not be easy, but let’s re-capture what it means to be the body of Christ. After all this is a vital part of our witness, for Jesus says “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love (agape) for one another” (John 13.35)