A Short Note About Goodness

As I walked down Chester Road towards the railway station this afternoon I heard the distinctive siren of an ambulance approaching from behind.

The road was quite busy, and one by one cars slowed down and moved to the side of the road, or even onto the pavement, to allow the ambulance easier progress.

All except one car, whose driver continued in an unchanging line, either ignorant or indifferent to what was happening around him.

Of course I wasn’t surprised. It’s a sad truth of human nature. And I’m not just talking about that driver, I’m talking about myself, and I’m probably talking about you.

Because here’s the sad truth. It’s not that I noticed that one selfish driver more than the dozen decent individuals. It’s not even that I expected someone to act that way. The sad truth is that I was looking for them.

This is how many of us are brought up. It’s how we are conditioned by the media and our society. And yes, it may well be built into our very nature. We find ourselves always looking for the bad and pointing it out, while we are seemingly blind to the good that surrounds us constantly.

Whether it’s that driver who cuts you up, the neighbour who causes a noise nuisance in the dead of night, the politician caught in scandal or the corrupt businessman. These are all exceptions. It’s not true to say “they’re all the same,” it’s truer to acknowledge that we notice their differences, and to understand that the news will report the abnormal rather than the everyday.

God is good, and He made us in His image. That image has become distorted but the goodness is still there, and we would do well to recognise that, and thank Him for the goodness in the world, in ourselves and in each other.

A Distraction

I feel the tension rise when I’m told this or that is a ‘satanic symbol’. There’s a part of me that appreciates the warning, remembers 1 Peter 5:8, and wants to avoid being devoured by the roaring lion.

But another part of me knows that symbols are nothing in themselves, that they are given meaning only in a particular context, and in the minds of those both using and viewing the symbol.

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An ‘x’ next to a schoolchild’s algebra solution means the answer is wrong. At the end of a message inside a greetings card it symbolises love. In front of the letters ‘mas’ it either means Christ, or that the perpetrator is trying to secularise the festive season.

Famously the swastika was an auspicious symbol in many Eastern religions, especially Jainism, for thousands of years before Hitler chose it as an emblem of Nazism and Aryan supremacy.

So I’m ambivalent about symbols, and this is how I rationalise my response:

Jesus is The Way. I can picture my Christian journey as a road I’m driving along, and I pray that I’m travelling in the right direction – along The Way.

There are signs along the road that are helpful to me. Sometimes the signs tell me I’m still on course. These signs might be answered prayers, small miracles or inner peace and other fruit of the Spirit.

There are more signs that warn me that I’ve taken a wrong turn, when the Spirit convicts me, or when a brother or sister corrects me.

And then there are signs that divert me. The temptations. The signs that promise me a short cut, an easier route, or the chance to take a break from the journey.

These are all signs that I need to be aware of and understand so that I don’t become lost.

And then there are the distractions. Satanic symbols are in this category. So are many church ceremonies and traditions, and denominations. In this world there are a lot of distractions.

The distractions are like advertising hoardings. They say something that may or may not be interesting or useful, but if you keep your eye on them for too long you will naturally find yourself driving towards them. That might lead to a crash, or just an uncomfortable ride, but it won’t lead to anything good. So although I might give them a glance and a thought, I want to keep my eyes on the road and The Way.

Confessions of a Hypocrite

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

Romans 3:23

How true! There are a number of sins that I would guess every one of us is guilty of on a regular basis. Pride for example, which is probably at the root of so many others.

But one that I am particularly aware of in my own life is hypocrisy. I don’t like it. In fact I hate it, and when I see it in myself I berate myself immediately and forcefully and pray that I won’t fail that way again.

But I do. It’s too easy. There are too many opportunities. As soon as get myself right in one respect I find myself failing in another.

And the one place where I find myself failing on a daily basis is on the road.

In The Car
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I’m sure that I am far from unique in this respect. When I’m driving I become the worst of all hypocrites. I condemn fellow road users in my mind or out loud for driving too fast or too slow, for aggressively overtaking, for tailgating, for poor lane discipline, dangerous parking, unnecessary horn-blowing, queue-jumping and any other bad driving habit you can name.

And every time I do so, I immediately remember that I have been guilty of every one of those transgressions myself. Some I have managed to put behind me, some I only succumb to every now and then, but one or two seem to be ingrained. I can train them out of myself, but sooner or later they creep back in.

I know I need to improve. I recognise that I’m worse when my mood is low. I see that I’m better when I have a passenger, or worse when I’m in a hurry. And when I drive badly I don’t hide it from myself. I acknowledge it and tell myself to try harder next time.

I want to be a better driver, and if I really put my mind to it I’m sure I could keep improving for as long as I’m fit to sit behind a steering wheel. But what I want even more is to show grace in my response to others who are just like me – who may be having a bad day, or who are unfamiliar with a particular road layout, or who just made an honest mistake, or who have any number of other reasons why they did what I myself did yesterday or will do tomorrow.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 7:12