The Story of Kiwi, Traffic Lights and Street Truth

The Story of Kiwi, Traffic Lights and Street Truth

Once there was a talented young shepherd from New Zealand named Kiwi who was flown to the States to teach ranchers the down-under way to raise sheep. Kiwi had a passion in addition to ranching, and that was driving. He couldn’t wait to drive the wide-open spaces of America. After landing at the LAX airport, he immediately rented a red Mustang convertible. Before heading out, Kiwi asked the gate attendant if there was anything he needed to know about driving in America, and the attendant said, “Welcome to the land of freedom, bro’. With that car, we only have two lights you need to pay attention to: Green and Yellow. If you see yellow you might slow down a little, but otherwise, air it out.”

Kiwi was delighted to learn that in America drivers only have to worry about two lights—green and yellow. He mused to himself how in New Zealand drivers have to concern themselves not only with green and yellow, but also red lights, which mean stopping. America is like a dream he thought, “Go, Go, GO.”

Kiwi turned out into LA traffic as if he were racing off the line of the Indy 500. “Wow, this car has power.” Cars began to honk and Kiwi thought proudly, “They must really like my car.” He waved. As honking continued, he thought, “They must be jealous of my car, they’re a bit hostile.”   Kiwi increased his speed. “These red lights are hard to drive through. I have never seen such poor drivers as these Americans. And they are so rude.” After a half a mile of “two-color” traffic lights, Kiwi wondered aloud, “How do these guys get anywhere when driving is like a game of bumper-cars?” It was then that he saw flashing lights in his rear view mirror. He heard a thunderous voice say, “Pull over, California Highway Patrol. Pull over NOW.”

The policeman asked Kiwi for his paperwork and questioned, “Do you have any idea why I have pulled you over?” Kiwi answered, “I am real new here. Just got off the plane. I am having a little trouble negotiating the busy intersections sir.” The officer replied, “Do you have red lights in New Zealand?” Kiwi responded, “Oh yes sir. I dare say you could use them here. Would make for less congested driving I would think.” The officer scratched his head, “Are you color blind?” “Oh no sir, not at all. 20/20 vision. Well really 20/15 and seeing full color.” “Do you know you ran six red lights while I was behind you?” “Yes Mr. officer, it was explained to me at LAX that I was supposed to run the reds when I was driving a red Mustang like this. I was careful to look for a yellow light and I would slow down, but saw none.”   “Are you saying someone instructed you that Americans only drive by two lights—green and yellow?” “Precisely sir. My rental agent was so kind as to inform me.” “Sounds like somebody doesn’t like you. Well get in my car and we will go back there and check your story out. Take your keys, lock your doors.”

Kiwi got into the patrol car and they headed back to the car rental. “Oh my, watch out sir, You’re driving on the wrong side of the road.” “Yes, that was another matter.   Here in America we drive on the right side of the road. You did pretty well not to hit someone, running red lights while also driving half the time on the wrong side of the road. You need a little more information to make it on our streets. Ignorance will get you nowhere, and likely killed.”   “So sorry sir. I only hope you Americans are as tolerant as your news say you are.” “Well you saw how tolerant the drivers you met were. You’re fortunate you didn’t experience SoCal road rage.   Just so you know, Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The real road doesn’t tolerate ignorance either. You need a little of what I call ‘street truth.’   I’m going to give you this little book, you study it, pass the test and we will talk about you getting back to driving. You will know enough ‘street truth’ that you’re no longer a danger to society, and we will see if you can keep it on the straight and narrow.”       LH


What do you make of this story? How would you describe the moral of the story? You might detect more than one. What follows are a few key images and thoughts.


How important was an accurate understanding of driving in America for Kiwi? Kiwi was put in danger by a gatekeeper who gave him shallow and incomplete information. Kiwi shares a part in his own ignorance by being so naïve and trusting of the attendant.


The Gatekeeper: The story turns on the Kiwi visitor taking the rental car gatekeeper’s word as authority for how to drive in America. After all, the attendant was representative of the company and of the country. But the “surfer dude” gatekeeper was more interested in talking about a fast car than answering the important questions. Gatekeepers are those in our world who influence and inform us how the world is and what thoughts and behaviors get a pass as legitimate. It is up to us to integrate the Biblical worldview in all we do, and we must be watchful of just who it is that we give the power to portray our world.   We are often as naïve as the Kiwi in taking the gatekeeper’s word for it.


“Somebody doesn’t like you.” There can be malicious intent in some of our misinformation.

Rulebook: (driver’s manual for license—parallels the Bible as manual for living)

Redlight: (Stoplight) as a useful, necessary and good part of life

Several points here: A nation where red lights are ignored will experience trouble. What are some of the red lights that have become socially acceptable for Americans (and even the church) to ignore? We know that discipline is a key to thriving as we learn to observe stopping points that keep us from overdoing it. Yet foreign visitors are known to observe this about Americans. I quote words of a man from India: “If Americans do it, they overdo it. Americans tend to take things to the extreme.” I had never noticed this about Americans until this foreign observer mentioned it, but now I notice how it is a characteristic of our society in general. We may overdo many things such as eating, watching TV, shopping, working, letting children do anything they want, laissez faire sexual expression, non-stop news stories over and over about a current event, and the trend du jour: spending money (sometimes even other people’s money) without a budget and even running up more overburdening debt. {See this three minute professionally acted, powerful, humorous yet sobering video illustrating my point on debt: }


Can you think of some “red lights” that have become socially acceptable to ignore? This is not a preacher’s “stretched application” but rather a very practical and timely question!   It is the very subject of a new popular reggae song by, get this, older comedian Eddie Murphy. Only he is not laughing here.   The song is called “Redlight.” It is flat out good reggae, musically and lyrically, as it talks about a violent crime-and-vice ruined neighborhood that has lost its way and which needs to pursue what is higher, with Murphy even pointing up.   The song’s constant refrain is “Red Light, stop right where you are,” as it calls for a stop to crossing the lines of human decency.   {For those who watch music videos, you can see it on You Tube or Vevo: } . Don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily a Christian song, but it just came out last month, and it illustrates what I am saying about the necessity of redlights for us.


In all this, we must remember the grace of the Lord. Even the Stoplight is a grace thing. “You mean saying no is a grace thing? I don’t connect that with grace.”   But the Scripture does. Titus 2:11-14 (NIV) says this: For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.   It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. “

The grace of the Lord involves stoplights. But it is important to remember that stoplights are only one of the lights, and that if we focus mostly on stoplights, we won’t get very far down the road of Christian living. The redlights keep us protected , respectful of others and focused so we can move fully ahead with a green light on the positive road of “self-controlled, upright and godly lives.”    Lord, let us walk and pursue and abound in this grace.



Who are my Gatekeepers? From the Flat and Shallow

to Deeper (more Just / Upright) Biblical Understanding


We so greatly need a deeper than surface level of understanding to make sound judgments that make for deep justice in all our relationships. Yet we live in the new gilded age where veneer-thin understandings of life are celebrated as insights. These worldly wise insights are sometimes no more profound than like someone claiming to have just discovered the wheel, yet they ripple throughout our world with thunderous authority by our social world gatekeepers (which could include anybody in the talking class, from news media to teachers to preachers to entertainers).

It is easy for society’s gatekeepers to give us a shallow and incomplete picture of the way things are. It is up to us to integrate the Biblical worldview in all we do, and let the Spirit of God lead us in discernment. Please know my concern with our gatekeepers is nothing new. It is actually a Jesus thing. Recall how Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus was concerned with gates. We seldom encounter city gates today like in Jesus’ time, but we do encounter gatekeepers. I believe Jesus’ concern with gates applies in this way to us.


What do I mean when I say that gatekeepers (like the rental car attendant) sometimes give us shallow and incomplete information, or flat thinking? Here is one: the flat thinking I hear daily that any kind of force is violence. In the words of William Buckley, this is like “saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.” In many places, if our son were at school and fought off another student who was sexually molesting his sister, he would be expelled along with the molester, for both were using force and “equally” guilty of assault. This shows an amazing failure to distinguish right(eous) force and violent force. Those who insist on conflating force and violence contribute to conceptual and social injustice by oversimplification and flattening out what is sometimes right and good higher ground. Of course, my pacifist friends have some thoughtful nuances about these things that I always consider, yet the distinction remains.

Maybe a clearer example of how gatekeepers can misinform involves simplistic and unjust thinking regarding how we conceive of the rich and the poor. Typical gatekeepers refer to the rich and the poor with very narrow, judgmental and flat conceptions. If we simplistically just parrot what we hear, we remain as shallow and as fractured as worldly culture. As salt and light Jesus’ disciples need to be more than superficially informed so that there is a genuine call to a higher level of truth, life, and peace. The Bible speaks more deeply and thereby more justly. Below is a short piece entitled “Rich, Poor, or Righteous?” by a Kern Pastor’s Network writer named Drew Cleveland. It lets the Bible give some real and helpful contour to typical flattening conversation.




There’s a lot of talk these days about justice, inequality, the rich, the poor, the 99 percent, the 1 percent, the 47 percent, Big Banks, Big Government, etc. How do we think well (and biblically!) about such topics? This . . . won’t give you the answer, but it may provide a simple and helpful way to categorize these topics from a biblical mindset.

Unfortunately, most of the conversation revolves around reductionist, naturalistic, materialistic, or utilitarian concepts, which label or define social status simply by the quantity of stuff a person has. Yet in Scripture, material wealth or poverty is never an indication of a person’s status before or relationship to God. The important thing is what the person has done to acquire or lose their wealth, how they view their material state, and how they relate to others in light of that state. Gerry Bershears and Mark Driscoll (Co-authors of the book “Doctrine”) provide us with this helpful little grid.


Examples: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Joseph of Arimathea, Lydia, and Dorcas


Examples: Ruth and Naomi, Jesus Christ, the widow who gave her mite, the Macedonian church, and Paul


Examples: Laban, Esau, Nabal, Haman, the rich young ruler, and Judas Iscariot


Examples: The sluggard and the fool, who are repeatedly renounced throughout the book of Proverbs

Driscoll expands on this idea in an article for his local newspaper, The Seattle Times:

“The problem with both these theologies is that they make money the issue. The real issue is not money but righteousness. There are not two kinds of people — rich and poor — but four kinds of people: the righteous rich, the unrighteous rich, the righteous poor and the unrighteous poor.

The righteous rich became rich because God blessed them; they worked hard, invested smart and did not obtain wealth through sin like stealing or taking advantage of others. Such people spend their money righteously, generously sharing their abundance with those in need. I do not know the religious convictions of Gates or Buffett, but their generosity is an example of rich people acting in a righteous manner.

The unrighteous rich are people who obtain wealth through sinful means such as stealing and extorting. They spend their money in sinful ways and do little if anything to help people in need. The most legendary biblical example is Judas Iscariot, who stole money from Jesus’ ministry fund.

The righteous poor are people who work hard for the little money they have, spend it wisely and share their pittance with others in need. Jesus is the most obvious biblical example of someone who was both righteous and poor.

The unrighteous poor are people with little or no money because they are lazy or spend foolishly. They do not give to God or others. The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about such people, calling them “fools” and “sluggards.” – Mark Driscoll in the Seattle Times

Wealth and money are complicated and important concepts; they affect our daily lives, thoughts, decisions, and our entire community. Yet, it is not the amount of stuff you have (or don’t have) that is important, it’s our righteousness before God, granted to us by the work of Jesus.

Yet righteousness wealth is not simply a matter of generosity, as if you could buy righteousness through good philanthropic endeavors. God deeply cares how we create wealth in the first place, how we view the work it takes to do so, how we treat the laborers who do the work, and how we stewardship his creation towards productive ends.

The pursuit of material wealth and the constant fixation on money can ensnare the wealthy and poor alike. God cares about your heart and your fruitful work. It’s not how much money you make, it’s about how much value you create – and the person you become while doing so.


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