3/13/13 Al 42
I’m always surprised by the stories and backgrounds of the people I initiate Gospel conversations with. Today at a Dunkin’ Donuts a man named Al turned out to be a “wreck chaser” – a tow-truck operator who races to be first on an accident scene and compete for the towing jobs. Successful wreck chasers have to be slick-talking salesmen, willing to be pushy, to lie and to take advantage of the accident victim even in the midst of their injuries and the shock of the accident – and Al had all the traits of a successful wreck chaser. So when I asked if he thought he would go to heaven, I got all these finely honed skills focused on convincing me what a good person he was. Since I was talking about religion in public, Al assumed I was some sort of pastor or priest, and he told me everything he assumed I wanted to hear. He began with the fact that he has recovered from a horrible traffic accident as proof of God’s favor, then went on to compare himself to his sin-filled life before the accident, the selfish and twisted people he had surrounded himself with in that former life, the corrupt members of a bad church experience he had, and the many criminal types he encounters daily on the streets as he chases after wrecks. Compared to all these people, in his eyes he is a saint, and he spoke with complete conviction because he truly believes it all. Trying to get a word in edgewise, I did all I could to help him understand that the standard for comparison isn’t other people, but God’s holiness and His perfect law such as the Ten Commandments. Al would agree to this in theory, but immediately go back to wax eloquent about his self-perceived goodness. He was almost a complete caricature of what most of us do much less conspicuously – convince ourselves of our worth and value in God’s eyes. The truth is, Christ died for us while we were yet sinners – “God’s enemies” (Romans 5:10) – not because we were good people. I’m thankful that conversations with people like Al remind me to beware of that ever-present tendency toward selfish pride in my own heart, and I pray that he will see it in his own.