The car in front of me had a bright yellow "Jesus is Lord" sticker on the window. Inside, a scruffy, round-faced kid eyed me coldly for a moment before sticking his tongue out and disappearing behind the seat. The lights turned green and the be-stickered car swung unannounced into the right lane to the tune of protesting honks from behind. I could just see the young raspberry blower rising defiantly from behind his seat as I drove past, pondering the impact of their fervent bumper sticker.
"Jesus is Lord?" I thought. "Of that car? Huh! I don't think they should have that sticker."
That's when red and blue lights started flashing somewhere in my spirit and I heard the wail of my conscience start up. Bother. God was after me. Still driving down the road, I pulled my thoughts over. "Officer", I felt like saying, "did you see what that Jesus-sticker car just did?" But I could feel the Spirit's spotlight focus on me.
"Okay, Lord", I asked, "what did I do this time?"
"Impersonating an officer."
"What?!" I cried. "When?"
"Just now, at the lights." I scratched my head, frantically trying to think.
"What did I do?"
"You wrote a ticket for that car with the child, in front of you."
"Yeah, I want to talk to you about that! Did you see what the kid did? And the lane-change? And they were wearing one of your stickers!"
"Whose job is it to pull them over?"
"Well . . . yours."
"It is my job, Warren. I already have pulled them over."
"Oh, good." My sense of justice was satisfied.
"I gave them ten demerit points."
"Oh, good", I exclaimed. Then I heard the scratch of pencil on paper. "What are you doing, Lord?!"
"I'm writing you a ticket."
"Fifty demerit points."
"Fifty?! But they only got ten! Hey, what did I do, anyway?!!"
"It's all here on your ticket."
"Oh, great . . . fifty points", I said. "I suppose I'm up around a million demerits by now."
"Nope. You're up to fifty. Remember, all you have to do is appeal." And he drove off.
I drove home sullenly. In the privacy of
my room I examined my ticket. "Imperson
ating an officer", it said, "pursuant to Romans section 14.4." I got out my copy of the rules. Romans 14 verse 4: "Who are you to judge someone else's servant?" it read. "To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand."
My own words came back to me: "I don't think they should have that sticker". I looked back at the ticket, "see regulations Matthew section 7", it said. I turned to Matthew. These words looked pretty important. They were in red writing.
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
I thought of my glee at their ten demerit points. The red writing continued.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother 'Let me take the speck out of your eye' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Unwelcome scenes of my own performing of illegal lane-changes, overparking and travelling above 50k in the Mt Albert Baptist Church Van came unbidden to my mind's eye. Worse, the time I had eight people in the mini and had to admit to the police that we were a church youth group. And once when the only excuse I could give for driving the wrong way up a one-way street was that I was late for worship-leading.
Feeling a little meeker, I looked at the fine print on the ticket. In tiny writing it said, "All offences qualify for consideration for appeal under the Useless Drivers Appeal Act, 33AD. Upon signed confession by the driver that he/she is in violation of the law, all demerit points shall be transferred in exchange for the Police Commissioner's personal perfect driving record. All may apply. There is no limit to applications."
I got down on my knees and wrote my application then and there. I included a note to the commissioner apologising for being busy booking others for their offences when he was busy trying to clear people's records. (Given the Useless Drivers Appeal Act, I kinda figured that every time I pointed out someone else's offence I was just directing more demerits to the Commissioner's own driving record. And I didn't think that was very smart.)
I got up and went to the kitchen for an
orange juice. Sally was there. "Oh good",
she said, "you're home. I've just been watching this video by these guys from the States." I could feel my hackles rising immediately. "They have a healing ministry, and on the tape they tell you how to pray for people so they get better."
"Great!" I thought, "some televangelist make-a-quick-buck scheme. And Sally's so naive: she'd believe them if they said they'd found Noah's Ark . . . ."
Somewhere inside me I thought I heard something. It sounded like someone clearing their throat urgently. It broke my train of thought, so Sally caught me by surprise when she said "I'll play the tape now: look!" and I couldn't think of an excuse fast enough. Too late: the screen was filled by brightly coloured letters announcing "Healing in Jesus' Name: with Bill and Doris Austin".
I sipped resignedly at my orange juice as the words faded and were replaced by two beaming, happy faces. "Typical Americans", I thought darkly, "they look about as genuine as the eyelashes she's wearing."
Something in me went "Ahem!" again. I looked around, puzzled. Doris Austin's videotaped voice interrupted my thoughts. "Bless you all in Jesus' Name", she started. Sally was positively beaming by now. She looked suspiciously like Doris Austin already, I thought. Both had that self-satisfied, smug expression . . . .
"Pssssst!" came an urgent whisper from within.
"What?" I mouthed silently as the Austins continued.
"But Lord, look at them! She's trying to be a movie star and he's read too many 'Seven keys to success' books! Lord? Lo-ord?! All right, I'll listen."
Sally was positively in raptures by now, her hands clasped tightly together under her chin, eyes glued to the screen. Bill and Doris Austin were interviewing a rather lean-looking man with deep wrinkles and thin hair. "Ye-a-s", he was saying, "doctors gave me six weeks to live before you good folks prayed for me. Hallelujah. And that were six years ago! Glory to Jee-s-us!" he added in a quaking voice.
"Emotionalism!" I thought.
That was it. Suddenly, something inside me reacted. I felt a large pressure on my heart, which began to beat faster, with great thumps. My throat went dry.
With infinite patience but razor-sharp definiteness, the words came: "Who are you to judge someone else's servant?" The words echoed around in my startled brain like Big Ben's bell-tower striking midnight. Or maybe like Ebenezer Scrooge's clock chiming three in the morning. The finger of God was pointing at me.
And for an instant I thought I saw - in a flash - a billion people bowing before a great, awesome throne somewhere. And I was in the crowd, face to the ground, and next to me was Sally, and next to her, I recognised Bill Austin, Doris Austin, and the thin, wrinkled man. We were all caught up in awe and as the One on the throne stood we buried our faces in the ground, side by side, as books were opened.
"Who are you to judge?" The words breathed across my soul.
"No one Lord", I whispered. "No one at all."
And I was in front of a television at home, watching happy people talking about wonderful things, with Sally excitedly saying: "Did you see that? Wasn't that a miracle?" And I found I had a lump in my throat as I said "Yes, Sally, I believe it was", and took a big sip of orange juice, with moist eyes.
I was driving to work the next day
when I found myself behind a car with a big
yellow "Jesus is Lord" sticker on the window. I couldn't wait to find out if it was the same car. I wanted to wave at them, to smile, to point to the sticker and mouth "Good on you!" or something. I tapped my horn lightly to attract their attention.
Just then the lights turned green and the driver in front's attention was taken up with traffic, but as they pulled away a familiar scruffy round face surfaced behind the back seat.
I was elated. I waved and smiled like a benevolent madman at the dear child. As their car sped off at astonishing speed, I could just see, through the back window, a big tongue stick out defiantly.
"God bless that child", I grinned. "God bless them all."
Warren Judkins is 28, studies at Carey Baptist College, helps out at Mount Albert Baptist Church and lives under an office building in Parnell with friends. He secretly wishes he could be a breakfast radio announcer but reckons God knows best. Heroes include his family, Merrilyn Withers, James Dobson and Derek Prince.