By Rev Neil Cutcliffe
Neil, forgive me for daring to state the obvious,” my good friend Ronnie Smyth leaned forward in the passenger seat and drew a deep breath, “but that’s an ‘L’ Driver in front of us.”
“I’ve got eyes, haven’t I?”
“Then slow down, - if not for your sake, at least for mine!”
I remember the incident well. It took place late one January evening several years ago as we were driving along the Manse Road on our way to a church meeting. Caught in the headlights in front of us was a car with the caption ‘Dick Wilson Elite Driving School’, followed by a list of his qualifications and a telephone number boldly emblazoned across the boot. In case there was any doubt, an additional sign carrying the same name and telephone number in eye-catching orange script was fastened to the roof.
“Quite an improvement on the old banger I used for my driving lessons.” Ronnie sounded suitably impressed but I thought otherwise.
“If I was doing my driving test right now,” I muttered, “ I wouldn’t like to be relying on Dickie boy to get me through.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean the dent in the boot.” I braked hard as the vehicle in front slowed without warning. “Doesn’t that tell its own story?”
Indeed, the deep gash was hard to miss. The rear of the car had been shunted forward into the back passenger seat leaving behind a whacking great abrasion, which rather spoiled the good credentials and slick advertising. For all I knew, Dick Wilson might be a first-class instructor, but the damage to the boot of his car sent out a different message. There is something a bit suspect about a driving instructor whose car resembles the last finisher in a demolition derby race.
Spreading the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus can run up against a similar problem. St John recalls the occasion when a bunch of Greeks approached the disciples with the request ‘We wish to see Jesus.’ Nothing has really changed. People still wish to see Him. This desire might be coded in different words but basically many in our modern world are desperately searching for a glimpse of Jesus. So where do they look? At the lives and witness of individual Christians, that’s where! And what do they see? An active faith, an attractiveness which makes them want to come closer and learn more? A caring compassion? An open acceptance? Or is it the dents? Do the defects, the sins and the intolerance of many of our lives sometimes blot out the vision of a truly loving and all-embracing Saviour?
I couldn’t take my eyes off the dent in that car. It stripped the shine from the wonderful wording and the polished appearance. In light of the damage, Dickie’s claim to be an ‘Elite’ instructor took on a hollow ring
Those of us who claim Jesus can change lives for the better, should be living proof that these words are true. We have the responsibility of pointing others to the person of Jesus and whether we like it or not, Jesus is judged to a large extent by the lives of those who profess to be His followers. The question is: do we attract or detract? My prayer is that in our walk of faith we may be given the opportunities and sufficient grace to enable others to see the Living God, not only by the words we speak but by the actions we take and the lives we live. Keep your engine ticking over.