Surgical Spirit: What is putting people off?

"A good name is more desirable than great riches" (Proverbs 22:1).

Mrs Atkinson told me that she did not have many visitors in hospital. She was in a side unit and she wished there was more company. Even the nurses rushed past. Nobody seemed to pop in or pass the time of day. 

"Tell the doctor why, Mum", prompted her daughter.

Mrs Atkinson laughed. "Well, it turns out that someone had stuck a label on my door: ‘Mrs A'"

I looked puzzled."Think about it", she said. "Mrs A. And everybody thought it said MRSA!"

(MRSA is a dangerous superbug that is resistant to most antibiotics. Patients who have the infection are nursed in isolation).

"Oh, dear", I said, "no wonder it put people off."

I thought about this story on my drive home from work. Mrs. A was a lovely, friendly person but nobody knew that because there was a big sign on the door warning people to steer clear. I thought of people I know who are great when you get to know them but give off the wrong signals. Back in 1786 the Scottish poet Robert Burns wished we had insight as to how we appear to others:

"O wad some Power the giftie gie us,
To see oursels as ithers see us!" (To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady's Bonnet at Church)

What is putting people off and hindering my gospel witness? Am I known to be truthful and kind, a team-player? Or am I unreliable, shirking responsibilities, sharp-tongued? Titus gives some specifics about how we should avoid bringing the gospel into disrepute:

" that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us" (Titus 2: 8). Timothy says that elders and deacons must be "men worthy of respect", having "a good reputation with outsiders" (1 Timothy 3:8&7b). Peter instructs us to "live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:12).

A very clever Christian told me that she used to wonder why she had no friends. She asked her colleagues for some honest advice and she got it: she always had to win an argument and was "never wrong"! She is doing a lot better these days but it is still an effort. After all, sanctification is a work in progress for every believer.

Is that a louse on your bonnet?

Meditation, from Psalm 51

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."

Ruth Eardley is a GP and member of Affinity partner Little Hill Church, Leicester. She writes a regular piece for her church entitled 'Surgical Spirit'. We have been given permission to reproduce some of them. This is her latest contribution.

"Louse" by jeans_Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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