Learning to Yield

Most traffic laws are based on the principle that two vehicles can’t occupy the same space at the same time. So a driver must sometimes wait for other cars to go before he can proceed. We call that “yielding.” A car merging onto a highway must yield to the cars already on it. Someone pulling out of a parking lot must first yield to approaching traffic on the road (even when coming out of Wal-Mart).

So it’s no surprise that a chief traffic hazard is failure to yield. Someone forgets the rules and thinks it’s his turn to go when it isn’t. Or someone gets in a hurry and takes the right-of-way instead of giving it. This results in two vehicles trying to occupy the same space at the same time. We call that a wreck.

Failure to yield isn’t just a traffic problem. Many of us live just like we drive—yielding to no one. We’re conditioned to put our own “rights” first. A meek, submissive attitude toward others is often viewed as a weakness. We can’t stand the thought of putting our own will in subjection to someone else’s. But God tells us to lay aside personal pride in favor of humility: “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor” (Proverbs 29:23). We are instructed to “be clothed with humility” (1 Peter 5:5) so that people can see it and identify us by it.

It has been said that we never think more like Jesus than when we yield to one another. “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who…emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:5-7). Jesus’ willingness to live as a man and die for our sins was the most selfless act in history. And He taught that those in His kingdom should seek not to dominate or rule, but to serve. “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,” He said, “and Whoever Wishes to be first among you shall be your slave” (Matthew 20:26,27). On the eve of His betrayal, when no one would blame Him for thinking only of Himself, Jesus tended to the disciples by washing their feet, explaining, “I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John13:15). The specific act of washing feet was not the point; it was that Christ’s disciples are to follow His example of always putting others first.

How do we learn to yield? “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3,4). The key is to view the other person—his wants, needs, concerns, and problems—as more important than self. (That, incidentally, is a good description of godly love). If that is accomplished, then compassion, generosity, forbearance, and patience will follow.

God sets no limits on meekness. Just as a driver yielding to heavy traffic can’t just go when he gets tired of waiting, I can’t quit yielding to others just because it becomes inconvenient. Jesus did not, even when it meant going to the cross. He could have argued that such was beneath His dignity, that it was way beyond the reasonable limits of humility. But Christ’s love was not so small as that. His concern was for man’s redemption, not personal convenience. That’s the example we are called to follow.

When I was learning to drive, my parents made sure I knew the rules about yielding in traffic. Their motto was, “When in doubt, let the other fellow go first.” That’s a good rule for living, too. Let’s imitate the humility of our Savior by learning to yield.