This weeks Christian Today column…
The story of The Times journalist and the Christian Deliveroo driver
Matthew Parris is one of the UK’s top journalists and commentators. The former MP writes regularly for The Times and The Spectator. He is always worth reading – not just because of the quality of his writing but his always stimulating content. So, I was intrigued to read this comment in his Times column on 5 July which was headlined “Jesus Loves Me”.
“It was late — nearly midnight — and I was walking the six miles home from a pleasant and lively speaking engagement not 500 yards from the Carlton Club. The journey took me down Fleet Street and straight through the City — streets and lanes ghostly, almost deserted at that hour. On a corner close to the Bank of England I paused at a complicated intersection. A cyclist pulled up beside me. He was in his twenties, a bit dishevelled and hairy but harmless-looking. He was riding a Deliveroo bike, no doubt with a late delivery. I had been paid £1,000 for attending the dinner. He was being paid perhaps £14 an hour.
“You’re Matthew Parris,” he informed me. I confirmed this. “Do you believe in the Lord Jesus?” I replied that I’m sure Jesus existed, and love and respect the character whose description has come down to us through the ages, but that I do not believe he was the son of God, and do not believe in God at all.
“But He said He was,” said the young man. I replied that Jesus probably was under a misapprehension. The cyclist paused to think. “Well,” he said, “Jesus loves you even if you won’t acknowledge him. I will pray for you.” And with that, he cycled off.”
I found this a fascinating and revealing comment. The Times that day included news of Boris Johnson, Ukraine, Covid, economic problems and many of the other ills that sometimes give the impression that we are living in the days of the plagues of Pharoah! To have this one example of a Christian seeking to communicate something of the good news of Jesus Christ was a little ray of sunshine in an increasingly darkened world.
This young man was courageous. It takes courage to speak to a stranger about something so personal and counter-cultural. He could easily have been mocked or abused. Parris did neither – and what impressed me about his comment was that there was not a hint of mockery or denigration. Most of us struggle to find the courage to speak for Christ when the door is wide open, and we are invited to. To speak in such a manner at such a time is an act of courage.
I loved the honest contrast that Parris made between himself and the Deliveroo driver. Parris had just come from a dinner where he was paid £1,000 for attending. The cyclist was being paid £14 per hour. Parris attends the Carlton Club; the cyclist attends church. The social contrast is stark. Parris was writing in his column about how the man who finally brought about the fall of Boris Johnson, Chris Pincher, was accused of groping two men at the Carlton Club. The Deliveroo cyclist had much better news to share.
Our Christian cyclist also went straight to the point. He spoke about Christ. When Parris gave his view of Christ, he did not immediately offer the CS Lewis apologetic – that you can call Christ a liar, a lunatic or Lord, but you can’t just say he was a good man. Instead, he just simply stated what Jesus said and declared his belief in Christ’s authority. ‘He said he was.’ In one sense the young man was using Lewis’s analogy. He said he was the Son of God – how could he be good if he was lying? And then he spoke about the love of Christ, stated that he would pray for Parris, and cycled away.
In the portion of the article above, I left out Parris’s final sentence: “I walked on, curiously moved.” That describes my reaction as well – both to the young man’s witness and Parris’s reaction. Here was an intelligent young Christian who in an open and compassionate way reached out to a stranger with the good news of Christ in a way that actually had an impact.
He clearly knew who Parris was and he reached out to him not, I suspect, because of a sense of duty or because he had just completed a ‘how to witness’ course, but rather because of genuine human compassion.
It was a small act of sincere, compassionate witness to Christ from someone who clearly believed enough in Christ to want to share him with others. As someone whose job is to reach out to others, I found that the Deliveroo driver had a lesson for me – and like Parris – I am curiously moved.