I think the bus is turning out to be one of my favorite classrooms in life. It happened again today, as I commuted to church this morning. We were running late and there was some traffic build up near Westlands. So, the driver decided to take a detour and pass through some back-roads to avoid the traffic. This is illegal by the way, but none of the passengers seemed to mind. We had everything to gain and nothing to lose. Personally, I was already running late for church. Furthermore, this is not the first time something like this has happened. Bus drivers take illegal turns and routes all the time. It’s normal. Except today. We hadn’t gone for more than 200 meters when the driver took a right turn that would lead to a great lesson on the importance of church and fellowship.
By the time the driver noticed the traffic cop, it was too late. He couldn’t reverse back to the highway because there were cars behind us. Neither could he make an illegal u-turn because the road was too narrow. We were locked in. The traffic cop must have noticed this because he didn’t even bother rushing towards us. He walked slowly towards the bus. Since he was taking his time, the bus conductor got an idea. “Tell him it’s a private bus! Tell him it’s a private bus!” He started saying loudly, to no one in particular, as he walked up the aisle towards the back of the bus. It took me a few seconds to realize that he was addressing us, the passengers. Apparently, he wanted us to lie to the cop that this was a hired bus. It was only illegal for public service buses to use these back-roads. But if we told the cop that this bus was being used for a private function, the driver won’t get a ticket.
That was a great idea, except for a few problems:
- It was a Sunday Morning.
- Most of the commuters were headed to their respective churches.
- Most of us were carrying our Bibles in plain sight.
Why were these things problematic? Well, for starters, no one wants to lie to a cop while holding a Bible in his or her hand, in front of other people who are most likely Christians. It suddenly grew very uncomfortable in the bus. I could hear nervous laughter from the guy seated next to me. Eventually, no one volunteered to be the first liar. None of us wanted to be the first to set that domino in motion. We all opted to get off the bus instead. We’d rather be late. Were we in a hurry? Yes. Would lying to the cop have gotten us out of the predicament? Yes. If this was any other day of the week, would it have been easier to lie to the cop? Of course, we’ve done it so many times before. But not this time. This particular circumstance was special. The guilt was too great to risk. We didn’t even bother asking for fare refunds.
As I walked down the street, I reflected upon what had just happened. Suddenly, it hit me how the whole encounter was relevant to the value of fellowship and being part of a church community. How corporate worship and fellowship serves as a means of grace in
our my sanctification. Here are just three of many insights gleaned:
1. The awareness that there were other Christians in the bus encouraged me not to give into the temptation. I am aware that it was probably more out of fear of man than fear of God, but it was, to a certain extent, an effective means of grace. Knowing that other Christians were watching (keeping me accountable) made it that much harder to give in.
“Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” [Heb 3:13]
2. It was easier to say no to sin on the basis of my faith because I was not the only believer in the bus. I knew that I had the support of fellow believers. I felt stronger in the face of the temptation because of the company. On any other day, I would have given in.
“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” [Eccl 4:12]
3. The explicit presence of other Christians discouraged me from committing a “deliberate”, “willful” and “presumptuous” sin. This is a dangerous type of sin because I seldom feel guilty after committing it, and that means that I seldom repent of such sins.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” [Heb 10:25-27]
Our God does indeed work in mysterious ways. Ironically, the mystery of His ways often lies in how “normal” they appear. This short experience effectively taught me a lesson that I doubt I could have learnt from reading a book on “12 steps to corporate sanctification.” It made me appreciate the role of fellowship and community in my fight against sin. The path to personal holiness is best traveled in the company of saints. I suddenly realized that in THE BUS, we were not just individual Christians who happened to be sitting next to each other facing the back of the driver’s head, we were also a community actively united against the power and deceitfulness of temptation. I realized that in THE CHURCH, we are not just individual Christians sitting next to each other facing the back of the pastor’s microphone, we are also a community actively united against the power and deceitfulness of sin.
For the fame of His name,