I was always amused, in the days of doctors having Saturday morning emergency surgeries, that if you went in then, the doctor would quite often be wearing jeans and trainers. During the week if you went to a consultation he would have suit on, but Saturdays were far more casual. Now I don’t mind how my doctor dresses, I’m more interested in how they do the job, but it was an interesting thing to observe.
The same was true as a Minister, and the question of when to wear a dog-collar and when not to – and what the difference says.
Outward appearances can be misleading. It is perfectly possible to have the right certificates, the right clothes, the right patter and still not be able to do the thing you are suggesting. Conversely, someone without those “right” looking things may be very capable – they just don’t look it.
Paul sums this up. On paper, he has it all:
“Others may brag about themselves, but I have more reason to brag than anyone else.”
He has the right upbringing, the right blood line. He’s always done everything by the book, to the letter…
…and yet he realises that all that means nothing. Because it’s not about where he’s come from, but where he’s going to. It’s not about how things look on the outside, but how things really are on the inside. It’s not about ticking all the right boxes, but being in the right place with God.
Paul realised that however sparkling his background, his qualifications, his status – what really mattered was knowing Jesus, being one with him. Outward appearances were not going to put him right with God, the free gift of love and forgiveness of Jesus is.
It is not the front we put on, the places we’ve been that impress God – in fact we can’t impress God; but knowing Jesus and accepting his ways means that we can share in what he has already won.
Nowhere is this expressed better than in the words of Robin Mark:
Forgive me Lord
that at times I like to rely on myself,
the things I’ve done,
the way I look,
what I know.
May I always remember
that I rely on you,
your amazing love
for me to share