Last week a driver in Marietta, Georgia was ticketed for eating a Double Quarter-Pounder with cheese while driving. He claims that the officer claimed to have followed him for two miles, and while he was neither speeding nor driving erratically, he charged the man with distracted driving. As we should expect, proponents of safer driving regulations are elated while advocates of personal privacy are aghast.
I have eaten behind the wheel, as I’m sure many of you have, and do not believe I’ve ever allowed it to distract me. But perhaps I’m mistaken. Maybe I have. I have witnessed vehicles where the driver was clearly paying more attention to his lunch than my safety. The Double Quarter-Pounder doesn’t appear to be a particularly problematic sandwich to consume in the car, but distractions do come easily.
We should note that neither the citing officer nor the local police department have commented, so the driver’s claim of not doing anything amiss must be considered as suspect. The complete truth has likely not been revealed yet, and frankly I have no intention of following up to see how it will be resolved. But law enforcement officials and insurance companies would remind us that distracted drivers are taking more lives and causing more injuries and property damage than ever before, so whether it be eating, texting, or horseplay with passengers, we are all placed at the mercy of fellow drivers. So to a far more serious subject, let’s consider distracted worship.
Some come into worship with no intention or desire to do any harm to anyone else. And will leave worship unaware of harm they may have inadvertently caused. Just as many drivers are unaware of problems they create by cutting someone else off, worshippers may not realize how they may have cut off the worship of another.
On any given Sunday there could well be someone who really needs to hear and perhaps respond to the gospel. They’re trying to follow and engage in what is taking place around them. But also on any given Sunday someone… with no ill intent at all… will create a distraction. Talking with the belief that no one else can hear. Believing that no one sees your texting. Getting ready to go home as the sermon is concluding. Getting up to allow others to pass by to go to the water fountain. Returning from the water fountain by walking up the aisle during the invitation. Carrying announcements to the front. Seeking someone who can help a stranger who has stopped in. Even the manner in which some song leaders and communion servers move into position can take the attention of other worshippers off the matter at hand just long enough to stifle a needed response, be it public or private.
Just before giving the command to worship, the Hebrew writer reminds us to “consider one another” (10:24). None of us would ever intentionally do anything that might hinder another. And we cannot always know what might hinder another thus it is unlikely that we can ever eliminate all distractions. But giving a little thought to how my actions may affect others can be very edifying. And remember, the distracted driver is at risk as well as those around him. You might benefit from paying a little closer attention to the worship yourself.