A Whiter Shade of Pale

Revd Chris Wood

Back in Halifax, my second job was working for a large Building Society in their Computer Department as a Computer Operator. I remember only too well how our manager appeared to be overly critical of all his staff, to the point of being irritatingly picky in his oversight and dismissive of any helpful suggestions. I have to admit that I was finding him increasingly difficult, and suggested one day in my blunt Yorkshire way 'that he appeared to be painting our greyness black so that his greyness appeared whiter to our superiors by comparison'. I suppose I could have said: 'Let the person without sin cast the first stone...'). He smiled and carried on in his usual irritating way.

He came in one day to say that he had been stopped by the police, and had to visit the local police station with his documentation, which he couldn't produce at the roadside. He then, strangely, confided that he had no documentation to produce as he had no current Road Tax; MOT or insurance (clearly before DVLA National Database). The next day he came in all smiles, suggesting that the police officer on the desk must have been having an off day, as he simply owned up to having no MOT - and that was what he was charged with - and wasn't asked about other documentation! Although 'let off', he saw this as a feather in his cap, wore it with pride, and carried on as if nothing had happened.

I recall saying nothing at the time, and neither did any of the other staff, yet equally appreciating that we had the means to get him into serious trouble had we wanted to as, at the time, it was a sackable offense if our public behaviour was to reflect badly on the good name of the Building Society. Maybe we were putting into effect the words from the Letter of Peter that 'love covers over a multitude of sins' (1 Peter 4: 8)... although it proved difficult at the time to like him let alone love him!

It was certainly a useful reminder - if ever I needed it - that we are all less than perfect (the Apostle Paul refers to followers of Christ as 'cracked pots who hold a greater treasure' (2 Corinthians 4: 7). In other words we each have our own annoying peculiarities; irritating habits; unconscious prejudices, strange quirks and foibles - yes, I admit to having them in myself! I know that we all have the potential to criticise others, or put value judgements on them that undermines their self-esteem, or elevate our own worth at the expense of another. But we are constantly reminded in scripture that this is not the way of love. Rather, everyone is treated as of equal importance in God's sight, indeed, in Christ He demonstrates that He goes in incredible lengths to restore to health and wholeness His errant children.

So when I'm tempted to criticise others, or 'drop them in it' I need to remember how much God has been willing to overlook in my own life, and how I am dependent at all times upon His grace and forgiveness, and having been accepted for who and what I am - warts and all - I'm required to do the same for others. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: 'be humble, gentle and patient, putting up with one another's failings in a spirit of love' (Ephesians 4: 2). A tall order I know, and one in which we need God's help, but all things are possible in Him.

God Bless


November 2016