This is a reflective story by Paul Taylor highlighting the challenges we can face with our non-Christian friends.
They were the nicest of people and ‘twas a terrible thing. They were such friends and so good. They came round for such pleasant barbecues and joined us in easy and interesting conversation and knew us and our children. They were so like us, ‘twas a terrible thing – because they were so unlike us.
We asked ourselves ‘how are we different from them?’ They have no faith or belief but they show such qualities. They are so good. They give to charities, as you do. They express such good sentiments, care about their nearest and dearest and their friends, and all the wrongs in the world. ‘Twas a terrible thing that we could not find a chink in that armour of goodness and niceness.
‘They are better than us’, we even thought at times, mindful of our own deficiencies and sinful tendencies and the struggles we have with doing what is right. They don’t seem to have that struggle in the same way we do. ‘Twas a terrible thing.
But we knew that Jesus had spoken in His authoritative voice, when a man addressed him as ‘Good Master’. Jesus had said, ‘Why are you calling me good? Don’t you know that only God is good?’ Would he have called our neighbours good? As we consider that question, we suspect – no, we know for sure – that He would not call them good. No more than He would call us good in our basic nature that always wants its own way and tends to forget God.
Yes, ‘twas a terrible thing. We knew that in reality there was a huge difference between us and them, that we had a life that they did not, that we had the Holy Spirit within us, whom they did not. Despite the outward likeness, there was an inward difference. We had a knowledge and faith that sustained us, which they did not. We had a view of Jesus on the cross, dying for our sins, which to them was completely redundant and unnecessary.
‘Wonderful’, they thought, ‘if you need those things, but for us, we have . . . what do we have? We have ourselves of course! And that is more than enough for us in our pleasant land and our pleasant place with our lovely children (not at every instant of course) and every other good thing’.
‘Twas a terrible thing, when we heard about the accident and wondered whether they had survived. God the Father, the creator and the almighty on high had perhaps decided that their times on earth were up. ‘You’ve had your time – now it’s My time to see what you have done or not done’.
We knew they would have said to Him, in awful surprise, ‘Lord God, we have done so much that is good and we admit a few mistakes and faults, but they were not really our fault, and surely we deserve . . . ‘ They would have been shocked and horrified to hear the Prince of Glory, the Lamb who was slain, say in return, ‘Get away from Me, you practisers of lawlessness’.
And they would have objected strongly to that. ‘No, no,’ they would have argued, ‘this is not right. You can’t do this to us. We are not like that and certainly not like these people over there. It’s unfair, it’s wrong, it’s unjust, it’s offensive in the extreme’.
And God would have replied, ‘You have always said in your heart that I am unrighteous, unjust and that you preferred your own selves and your own righteousness and goodness. Did you never hear that I condemned all of that from the beginning? I said clearly that your best efforts are filthy rags to Me, they stink worse than a used tampon, much worse than that. I cannot and I will not allow such uncleanness to live with Me for ever. Get away from Me!’
‘Twas a terrible thing.
‘But what . . . ?’ they would have responded.
And the Lamb would have said, ‘Look here at the wounds I received for those who put their trust in me to be delivered from their sins and their iniquities and their self-righteousness and all that is in them. I took their sin for them and threw it far away, as far as the east is from the west. This would have been your shield and it would have covered you from the judgement that was always there, but you would not have it. You had all that you wanted. ‘It is a terrible thing you did.’
So, when we heard that they had survived the accident – it was some other people who died – we were so relieved.
Here they come. The barbecue is on after all. ‘Hi Felicity, Hi James. Fantastic day. They predicted rain, but here’s the sun. What did you think about the State of Origin? Couldn’t believe it. Felicity, your hair looks great. You haven’t changed your hairdresser, have you?’
Yes, ‘tis a terrible thing.