Our compact SUV gets 35.5 mpg on the average, a few tenths more on long trips. I am that guy who irritates you by accelerating slowly and coasting up to red lights. I laugh at those who speed by me to brake at the same light as I coast up beside them. Once a mechanic told me three five-thousand mile checkups in a row that I would need new brakes the next visit. Traded that one with the same brake pads. Gas and brakes are both expensive and I am cheap.
Unfortunately, our average mpg counter is connected to our trip meter which rolls over to zero every 10,000 miles and which happened while we were in town today. We were treated to the erratic "average" ranging from 2mpg to 22mpg as we accelerated or idled at red lights. (PSA! Those automatic turn off features for red lights rarely save gas and wear out your starter motor). The average was based on only a few miles. Once we got on the interstate on the way home (in the right late at 64mph—avoid frustration and sin get there 10 minutes later), the average climbed steadily to an unrealistic 38.8mpg! Even our .4 mile, 5mph max, rough driveway left it at 38 when we pulled into the carport.
Sometimes we need to be more forgiving and encouraging with new Christians. Their average is starting off at zero and their growth may well resemble the erratic average (?) our car exhibited since their average is based on only a short time. Strong one day, carnal the next minute; impressive for a time and then inexplicably downhill into sin. Yes, they need correction, reproof even, but mostly they need Barnabas (Acts 4:36). Such men were rare even in Bible times or his actions would not have earned Joseph this nickname.
And even more mature Christians often could raise their average a good bit. Just like a long day in town lowers our mpg, a rough patch in life can lower one's spirituality unless he is on guard or gets help. Unfortunately, our American culture frowns on being so weak as to need or, God forbid, ask for help. An elder once commented, "How could he sit in church and participate (and teach) for so many years and believe that?" (after the man quit and still claimed to be right with God). I wonder if someone might say something like that about some of my behavior? It frightens me that so many can attend faithfully and go to work the next day and discuss shows like, "Game of Thrones" with their coworkers, or movies that are even worse. If it is wrong to do, why is it right to watch? How can the world know that being a Christian is special, moral, godly?
These are not modern problems, the church at Ephesus had been in existence about eight years and the first three under Paul's personal tutelage yet he wrote: "But you did not so learn Christ," "Put away the old man that is corrupted by the lusts of deceit," "Put away falsehood," "Steal no more," "Let no corrupt speech come out of your mouth," "But let not fornication and…covetousness be named among you" (Eph 4:20-5:3, sel). Two or three years later he wrote Timothy at Ephesus that "Men might know to behave themselves in the …church of God" (1Tim3:15). Over thirty years later, Jesus accused that they had left their first love, they were just holding church and practicing no wrong (Rev 2:4).
Every New Testament epistle was written to Christians and nearly every one commands that they cease practicing immorality (Gal 5:16-25; Col 3:5-10; 1Thess 4:1-5; 1Pet 2:1, 11, 4:1-5) with many encouragements to "Not let sin reign." (Rom 6:12).
Sometimes it appears that Christians are on cruise control, content to average 30 mpg the remainder of their lives. Their differences from society are so slight that no one will be prompted to ask concerning the hope that is within them (1Pet 3:15). Where is the eagerness to learn more? To grow to a new level? To leave your old average in the dust?
"Don't you know that they that run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? EVEN SO RUN; that you may attain. And every man that STRIVES in the games exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so RUN, as not uncertainly; so FIGHT I, as not beating the air: but I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage: lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected." (1Cor 9:24-27).
(For a companion piece to this article, go to the right sidebar and click on August 2017, then scroll down to "Mass and Momentum.")