Summary: God’s call is for those of us who think that looking good is sufficient to go share the Gospel; and to those who are discipled to be alert to the potential in those whom God has placed in our paths.
I heard this week about a very, very special automobile. It was built in the 1920’s by the Italian manufacturer Bugatti, and it was designed to be sold to the outrageously wealthy. This car was equipped with 450 horses under the hood; it was some 22 feet long and weighed about 6000 pounds. It was hand-crafted of the finest materials, it handled like a dream, and it cost something like $400,000 even in the 1920’s.
Naturally, it was not exactly everyman’s car, and only a few were made. The story I heard said that only six of them are known still to exist, and that the only one of them in the United States is owned by a retired general, who keeps it locked away in a secure garage, polished and shiny, pristine and proper, without spot or blemish of any kind. And here is what struck me about the story: this car is about 70 years old. It is a magnificent driving machine. It would take you virtually anywhere in complete comfort. But in 70 years it has been driven only 3200 miles. Only 3200 miles in three score and ten years of service.
This Bugatti is a museum piece. It’s something to see. But, then, that’s all that it is. It’s just something to see. It has all this power, all this potential, but nobody puts it to use. It has all this "get up and go", but no one is using it. It’s just good to look at, and that’s all.
You see, looking good is really no problem, no problem at all. There’s no problem with looking good, if that’s what you want Just stay out of trouble. Just keep out of harm’s way. Just don’t go where you shouldn’t go and don’t say what you shouldn’t say. Just hang on to that privacy thing, and you will look good. You will be unspotted and unblemished.
But will you go anywhere? Will you do anything? Will you make a difference for anybody? Somehow, I just think that God has more in mind for us than mere goodness. I believe that God wants to move us from goodness to going. From goodness to going.
The story is told that one day a tour guide was taking people around Westminster Abbey, probably the most famous church in England. The guide pointed out the ancient Abbey’s beauties, its glorious windows, the graves of kings and queens, the throne on which England’s monarchs are crowned. She went on and on about the poet’s corner, the musician’s corner, and all of the great worthies of the past who were buried or memorialized in that great church. But when she paused for questions, one tourist asked a penetrating one. Said the tourist, "This is a lovely, beautiful, historic church. But has anyone been saved here lately?"
Church, we at Takoma Park may look good in many respects. But how many have been saved here lately? And how shall we move from goodness to going?
Two men’s lives intersected one day. And for both of them it meant moving from goodness to going. For both of them it marked a moment when, in obedience to Christ, they went beyond their conventional goodness and became go-ers.
One of those men was Saul. Saul was a good man. A deadly good man. We are told that Saul was absolutely convinced that he was right. So convinced was he that he worked night and day to root out this Christian thing that had upset his tidy little world. Not content with bashing every Christian he could find in Jerusalem, Saul got permission to travel down the road to Damascus and ferret out the believers there too.
Saul was a good man; an exceedingly good man. Good in the sense that he was following his code of morality strictly and rigidly. Good in the sense that what he believed in he was pursuing with fervor. And what Saul believed in was a k1nd of icy purity, a harsh goodness that is all demand and no grace, all hard edge and no softness.
Goodness. Mere goodness. Arrogant goodness.
You know what? That sounds an awful lot like the people among whom we live here in Washington. That sounds a great deal like the world’s goodness which surrounds us. People who are right and who know they are right. People who will argue any cause and advocate any position. People who are hard-working and ambitious; people who think nothing of staying late at the office, taking work home, pouring themselves into the mad pursuit of some cause.
But people who are also out of touch with humanity. Out of touch with their own needs as well as out of touch with the hurts of others. People who may indeed live moral lives, by almost anybody’s standards, but whose principal concern is with their own reputations, their own accomplishments, their own standing. People who will ride over anybody or anything in their ways to look good.