A clear sign, part 1

Photo by Cameron Lee
Photo by Cameron Lee

I don’t love driving in Southern California.  In some places, the traffic is nearly always congested.  Rush hour is getting longer.  Reckless and rude drivers abound (not that I’ve ever done anything reckless or rude myself, no sir).  And sometimes, you just have to scratch your head at the craziness — like people who miss their freeway exit, stop, and back up.  Yes, on the freeway.

But there’s one thing I’ve learned to appreciate, having driven in other places.  As long as you’re paying attention, the freeway signs are pretty clear.  If you know the name of your exit, signs will alert you miles in advance, and remind you at least twice more before you get there.  That’s so helpful and friendly: Hi, it’s me again.  Now your exit is only 1/2 a mile away; didn’t want you to miss it.  Have a nice day!  I’ve been in places where the only help you get is the sign that lets you know you just missed your exit as you blow past it, as if to say, You’re not from around here, are you? 

It would be nice to have clear signs in every area of life.  People pestered Jesus for signs.  We pray to God for signs.  And we’re capable of taking just about anything as a sign: Well, look at that.  There’s a parking spot right in front of the store!  That never happens.  God must want me to buy that 80-inch flat screen!

Surely most of us have done this at one time or another.  It’s a way of seeking confirmation of a decision, of answering questions about our destiny.  But the problem is that the search for signs is often more about superstition than true spirituality, a shortcut through communal discernment and immersion in the teaching of Scripture.

But, having said that, here is one place in Scripture where we’re given a clear sign:

So then, tongues are a sign for those who don’t believe, not for those who believe. But prophecy is a sign for believers, not for those who don’t believe.  So suppose that the whole church is meeting and everyone is speaking in tongues.  If people come in who are outsiders or unbelievers, won’t they say that you are out of your minds?  But if everyone is prophesying when an unbeliever or outsider comes in, they are tested by all and called to account by all.  The secrets of their hearts are brought to light.  When that happens, they will fall on their faces and worship God, proclaiming out loud that truly God is among you!  (1 Cor 14:22-25, CEB)

What does it mean?  We’ll explore that in the next post.