Tailgating: God's Common Grace

Have you ever been driving along quite happily only to look in your rear-view mirror and notice a car tailgating? These cars are usually BMWs, often black and invariably driven by men. Now if he is close behind you because you are driving well below the limit, you will not receive my sympathy. If, however, you are driving as quickly as the regulations allow, and still he is frustrated by your lack of speed, I congratulate you. You are doing him a great service. He wishes to break the law. He desires to drive at 80 or 90mph, but your own speed and the lack of overtaking opportunity, reduces his speed to that of yours. He is now obeying the law, even though he doesn’t want to. On these occasions, I love being the driver in front. Though he comes up close and flashes his lights, I will not go above 60.

In Romans 13, Paul says that civil governments (in his times the emperor and imperial curia, in ours Parliament, the government and local councils) are appointed by God and function as his ministers. He says:

1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. (Emphases mine, obviously).

God does not always approve of secular governors. Indeed, they often do much to oppose His standards and persecute His people. Yet He appoints them to limit the evil inclinations of their citizens. Many folk avoid stealing and violence, not for conscience’s sake, but fear of the legal consequences. God granted all nations leaders and governors that they might repress the worst manifestations of the fallen human heart. This is God’s common grace.

So remember the next time BMW-man is tailgating you, in the hope that you speed up or move aside: your insistence on keeping to the speed limit is an act of common grace that forces him to be a good driver, at least until he can overtake. 

Photo Credit: RustySmokebox: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tailgating.jpg