I heard the apocryphal tale of a good citizen who was being tailgated by a stressed-out woman. The light at the intersection in front of their cars turned yellow. The good citizen did the right thing by stopping at the crosswalk - even though he probably could have beaten the red light by gunning it through the intersection. The second driver wasn't pleased.

The tailgating woman hit the roof - and her horn. She was screaming in frustration because she had missed her chance to get through the yellow light. As she was still in mid-rant — alternately pounding the steering wheel and gesturing to the fellow in front of her — she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer.

The officer told her to exit her car with her hands up. He put handcuffs on her. He took her to the police station, where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, a police captain approached the cell and opened the door.

The woman was escorted back to the booking desk, where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects. He said, "I'm very sorry for my mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cursing a blue streak. Then I noticed the 'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'What Would Jesus Do?' and 'Follow Me to Sunday School' bumper stickers, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk. Naturally, I assumed the car couldn't be yours and that you had stolen it. I made an honest mistake."

Ouch! Somewhere through the centuries, the idea has gained currency that says we can be Christians in the same way most people are Democrats and Republicans, Rotarians and Lions. We show up for meetings, pay our dues, and wear the insignia. For the most part, however, it is acceptable to be "just like everybody else." We're devout Christians on Sunday mornings, but we curse or flirt or cheat or tell racist jokes the other six and a half days of the week.

Have we so institutionalized the Christian faith that membership has come to count for conversion? It isn't just Vito Corleone of "Godfather" fame who could live as a criminal so long as he attended Mass and gave gifts to his church.

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. ... Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world (1 Peter 2:9-12 NLT).

Have we so institutionalized the Christian faith that membership has come to count for conversion?
If faith is more than self-delusion, it will be reflected in all the routine and ordinary events of life. Even at traffic lights.