I recently left the Frontline building on a Friday, just before 1pm and started walking down Lawrence Road. At that time there is a general bustle of shops closing, people arriving, walking towards a shared destination. It’s Friday prayers if you’re a follower of Islam and it’s interesting to see what a ‘church’ gathering together looks and feels like when you’re not part of it!! As I walked down the pavement a man drove up and parked right across the pavement in front of me. My self righteous side (which to be honest is often more than just a side!) immediately reacted and this thought came to my mind… “Does your faith let you do that?” Is your belief system happy with the fact that you’ve been inconsiderate and parked in a way that puts pedestrians and other drivers at risk just so that you can have the convenience of a slightly shorter walk?”
As the old saying goes, ‘whenever you point the finger at someone else… there are always three pointing back at you’! And so I began to ponder; “I wonder what the way I live says about the faith I profess?” Oh, for sure, I can turn it on with the best of them! I can go into town and feed the hungry – or help an elderly neighbour with some gardening – but what about when I’m not ‘on duty’? When I’m just living life? When I’m going to the shops or eating in a restaurant, waiting in a bus queue or driving about the city? I suspect that on occasion an objective observer would probably similarly ask the question… ‘Does your faith let you do that?’
As an aside, and apologies if this is getting a little too close to home, but based on the number of complaints we get from neighbours whose lives have been inconvenienced by the parking of people coming to Frontline, I suspect that I’m not the only one!
Do I have to live well, kindly, considerately, preferring others to get God’s love? Absolutely not! I am loved by God unconditionally – his affection for me is unwavering! There is nothing I can do to make God love me any more or any less!! I am saved purely by His grace and no good behaviour on my part makes one bit of difference to the power of His grace to save me. As Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9 “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”
But as I live in that grace, as it increasingly flows in and impacts my life, I’d expect a behaviour change. Peter tells us (2 Pet 1:5-8) that we should aim to add to our faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, etc. It’s not that how we live saves us, but that once saved we should be looking for our lives to increasingly reflect His saving grace… you could call it a reflex to the grace of God!
So do I need to live my whole life terrified that the place I park, the way I drive, how patient I am in a queue, or how much I tip at the restaurant are reflecting Jesus poorly to the world around me? Absolutely not… I was promised life in abundance (John 10:10) not life in tormenting self-examination! But when the Holy Spirit nudges me about my lack of patience, my driving style, or my frosty response to the Mormon missionaries at my door (oops!) – I can simply ask ‘Does my faith let me do that?’