What would people think?

A story I once heard…

A young man slowly navigated his way around the small town square, in search of a parking place. Nervously he noticed the woman driving behind him, tailgating, and – from the looks of it – cursing his slow driving as she honked and gestured vehemently. As he neared a traffic light, as luck would have it, the light turned yellow and the young man put on the brakes. As he did, he cringed for the possible crash, but to his surprise the woman stopped short of rear-ending him. Barely.

He glanced in the rearview mirror to see the woman waving frantically. As she ranted and raved, dropping her makeup and cell phone, her face turned beet red in rage. Just as she was about to get out of the car, there was a tap on the driver’s side window. The woman glanced to her left and was astonished to see a police officer at her window. Embarrassed, she lowered the window. “Please get out of the car with your hands up,” the officer said.

“What?” the woman replied.

“Please exit the vehicle with your hands up, ma’am,” the officer repeated.

Befuddled, the woman got out of the car, and was immediately handcuffed and taken to the police station. The officer escorted her to a holding cell, locked her in, and walked away. The woman looked on in disbelief, utterly unable to protest.

Three hours later the police officer returned to the holding cell and unlocked the door. “I’m sorry, ma’am. It was my mistake,” he confessed.

“You better believe it, buddy,” the woman huffed.

“Well, you see,” the officer continued, “when I pulled up behind your car you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak. But I noticed the ’What Would Jesus Do’ bumper sticker, the ’Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ’Follow Me to Sunday School’ sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish symbol on the trunk. Naturally,” the officer deadpanned, “I assumed you had stolen the car.”

So what if our life really was an open book? What if every action taken and word spoken was available for public consumption? What would people think of us?

Unfortunately, we forget that our life is, indeed, an open book to the only being that matters. Nothing is hidden from God, much as we might like it to be, or erroneously think that it is.

It is disconcerting to me, having served as a shepherd, that people in the world – and even some who claim to be disciples – seem to believe that if they can keep their wicked deeds a secret, they have scored some sort of victory. Seeing that in the mirror is what keeps me up at night. But why would anyone, including me, believe that?

Paul gives the answer in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, when he writes that Satan’s activities include all power and false signs and wonders, and…

with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who do not believe the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness.”

God does not force us to see the error of our ways. In fact, if we are determined to act in ungodly ways in private, God will let us believe that such privacy somehow protects us from divine judgment. God will allow us to believe that as long as our brothers and sisters in Christ, or the shepherds of the church, or our neighbors or co-workers don’t know of our behavior, then there will be no consequences. Paul’s writing was about the man of lawlessness that would be revealed, and who would hoodwink saints who did not love the truth. The same principle applies now: if we do not love the truth, prompting us to faithful obedience to it, God will let us believe whatever we are inclined to believe, and our minds will be clouded to what is really true.

I have no idea if the story of the woman driver is true, but the principles it teaches are as right as rain. Private personal conduct, though hidden from man, is not hidden from God. And being part of a local fellowship of Christians offers no guarantee of salvation if our private conduct is unbecoming of disciples. Instead of worrying about what people might think of our behavior, we ought to be concerned about what God thinks of it.

May grace reign through righteousness in your life.

– Bo Couchman

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