Paddy Davis was a lonely old man, a widower whose only son was divorced, depriving Paddy of any contact with his grandchildren. We could often hear him out in his backyard in the early morning singing the old, familiar hymns. He had once been a song leader in his church and still had a good singing voice.
One day he came by on his bike as I was working on my daughter’s car. After a brief greeting, he asked: “Some people say that cleanliness is next to godliness. Do you agree with that?”
“Well no, I guess I don’t. I think there are other things that are more important.”
“I think so, too,” Paddy responded. “Maybe we should say that friendliness is next to godliness.”
And with that he was off, leaving me to contemplate the profundity of his statement. More than twenty years have passed and that simple statement still echos in my mind.
Clifford Mastre was a North Dakota farmer and a minister of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. The sign beside his house said “Welcome” in 12 languages or more. Clifford was a tall, thin man with just a trace of his Norwegian ancestry in his speech. He was a gentle and caring man with an infectious enthusiasm. Elizabeth, his wife, was a perfect match for him.
One day a neighbour came to see Clifford, visibly agitated. “Your dog killed fifteen of my chickens,” he accused. Clifford told him how sorry he was, and asked how much the chickens were worth. The neighbour named a price and Clifford reached into his wallet and paid a little more than the amount his neighbour had named.
Peace was restored and the neighbour went home satisfied. It was several months, perhaps even years, before the neighbour discovered that Clifford didn’t own a dog, never had.
Something has been niggling away in the back of my mind for a few weeks. It appears to me that the news media are doing a pretty good job of letting everyone know what Christians are against. Some Christians have been only too happy to cooperate in putting this kind of information before the public. Don’t people need to know more than this about Christians?
Righteousness is an important aspect of the Christian faith. But love and peace are equally important, perhaps even more important. What do our neighbours say about us? Do they find us friendly, neighbourly, compassionate, patient, trustworthy?
“When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7). May that be true of all of us who bear the name of children of God and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.