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The story of The Times Journalist and the Christian Deliveroo Driver – CT

This weeks Christian Today column…

The story of The Times journalist and the Christian Deliveroo driver

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

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.

Courageous

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.

Counter-cultural

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.

Christ Centred

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.

Compassionate

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.

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14 comments

    1. @Stephen Wanmer

      “The kindness and prevenient love of God is illogical and irresistible.”

      God has taken the trouble to explain His (as you put it) “illogical”, prevenient love simply, Such is “the foolishness of God”, to borrow a phrase of the apostle Paul’s, applied to the cross. But He has also mentioned the role of our own prevenient love for Him, while we are yet sinners, which he incites us to kindle even when we languish helpless in sin, hungering and thirsting after a righteousness we have begun to realise is unattainable to us, without a miracle that we ourselves are unable to perform.

      And God hasn’t actually said that his love is “irresistible” either, has He? That idea (and the rest of the TULIP of Calvinism) comes from a clumsy synthesis of the mystical, trans-logical, ancient faith of orthodox Christianity with Renaissance ideas of determinism found in secular philosophy roughly contemporary with the Reformation.

      For little children and those willing (like me) to become *like* little children, to attain leave to enter and to remain in the Kingdom of God, or even the ability to see that there is an otherwise invisible kindom of God with embassies in every country – even the ability to believe and to confess that God is the ultimate King and to aspire that He might become our own King – there are many pointers in scripture.

      Minutes after I noticed your comment, I stumbled across my daily verse of scripture from one of the several sources that email me short passages of scripture daily. Happily, it seems apt: “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” [Proverbs 8:17] I wouldn’t have dared to challenge (presumably) a Calvinist like this, with a proof-text that reciprocation of God’s love and compassion towards and upon all his creatures also needed to be “prevenient”, accelerating the courtship, but for this timely coincidence.

      If you find my rejection of Calvinism depressing, just say to yourself, “oh well, never mind, I suppose this was bound to happen”. For that fatalism accords with your creed. For my part, I could not bring myself to plead to God for Matthew Parris’ conversion, as I now feel inclined to, if I truly believed that God has already decided, before He started the clock of history ticking, whether or not that was something He’d decreed beforehand would happen, or something He’d decreed beforehand wouldn’t happen. I’m just not “illogical” enough yet, I guess. I remember realising I wasn’t up to that illogical task when I was still a child myself. It has taken me about 60 years to pluck up the courage to say so, so openly.

      1. Amen to the Proverbial verse. To contextualise it Scripturally, we love because Christ first loved us. Even the faith we have is a gift of God. Salvation isn’t by our works, so no one can boast.

      2. Sounds like you’re ‘outing’ yourself as a non-Calvinist, John,
        due to an unresolved childhood difficulty. I’m sure that you’ve found much to confirm your prejudice over the years but not everyone who is repulsed by the status games and exclusive claims of the self-styled ‘truly reformed’ feels the need to throw baby out with bathwater. Calvinism is basically a philosophy built around a statement defending the notion of God’s sovereign clemency from a particular scheme of self-salvation. In my experience, evangelicals who want not to be Calvinists because of the bad behaviour of others who do want to be known as Calvinists, generally try to ‘rescue’ Calvinist preachers whom they admire from the opprobrium of being Calvinists. Perhaps it would be more productive to disagree with what opponants actually say and do rather than to imagine the contortions we would have to go through to achieve a position that nobody of any significance happens to hold!
        Yours,
        John/.

  1. “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.”

    What is wrong with a sense of duty, as a motivation? It is part of the panoply of any soldier in battle, literal or metaphorical, even if it’s not explicitly mentioned in Ephesians 6.

    If the young man had experienced what seemed to him to be a prompting on the part of the Holy Spirit to speak to Parris as he did, he had the option to obey. Whether from fear of God, love of God, or a mixture of the two, he’d have developed a sense of duty within seconds. Having the belt of truth buckled around his waist, and the breastplate of righteousness in place, and his feet shod with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, he was ready to obey.

    He probably didn’t stop to pray, saying, “but Lord, I don’t feel any warm human emotions towards Mr Parris, so (if he writes a story about this encounter – which he did!) clergymen like David Robertson might step forward and imply, in writing, that it would have been wrong of me to say what I feel convinced that you want me to say to Parris, unless I have the right sort of feelings towards Mr Parris until after I’ve said it.” No, he just obeyed a direct order, out of a sense of duty, like a literal soldier in a literal battle has to obey.

    I admit that I am perhaps over-thinking your hurriedly dashed-off words, but that is because I suspect (perhaps wrongly) that you may have overthought yourself, speculating about the most-favoured psychological processes that might have been at work in the evangelist’s mind, ever-so-slightly judgmentally towards those who do this sort of thing often with perfectly adequate motivations, even if not to your taste. What better motivation for performing one’s duty than a sense of duty, even if that doesn’t exactly match your fantasy of what a perfect motivation would look like?

    I have above my desk an icon of the Romanian Orthodox saint Constantin Brâncoveanu and his four sons and the son’s tutor, all of whom were martyred, the first five before Constantin himself, in front of his eyes, in an attempt to persuade him to deny Christ and embrace Islam, to suit the Turks and the politics of the time. For some unknown reason, Brâncoveanu watched his four sons and his employee and friend butchered, and then accepted death himself, rather than say the words required for his family and his throne to be spared, that there was no god but Allah and Mohammed was his prophet. I am not under any illusion that it is at all likely that he behaved thus primarily out of any great feelings of “love” in his heart for the murderers who witnessed this sacrificial act of witness to Christ’s lordship on his part. Duty called, and his sense of duty rose to the occasion, and the rest is history.

    1. I respectfully disagree and the reason is because as Paul says that without love we are a clanging cymbal. We’ve missed the point. That doesn’t mean we don’t speak the truth but it must be out of love for our fellow human beings, seeing them as made in the image of God, created by Him and for Him. For God so LOVED the world, He gave His only Son. Yes – Jesus was obedient to His Father but Jesus acted time with love and compassion for those who like sheep who had gone astray, and needed a Good Shepherd.

      1. You are right, of course, but in modern times, the word “love” has acquired a sense of meaning different from doing good to another, the essence of love as we used to use the word. It has become insteead about having certain *feelings* towards that person, and perhaps prioritising the other’s feelings over one’s own feelings. I see a danger in the necessary introspection, to examine oneself to determine whether one has the correct feelings towards somebody to be able to do them good with a motive – love – that is itself good, and nowadays a word usually used with a modern, feelings-oriented meaning in mind.

      2. I suppose good without a motive is ‘sacrificial love’ – so not expecting anything in return or in fact suffering for that love. I think it’s hard to be completely altruistic in any of our attempts to love. But I think agape love is described by C. S. Lewis in the ‘Four Loves’ as a love that isn’t based on a desire for something in return, unlike say a love of beauty, a desire for something where we gain something for ourselves – yet it’s this kind of love, agape love, Christians are called to – putting others before ourselves and expecting nothing in return. I suppose what the Uber driver was doing was pointing to the one who showed us how to love in this way and to do so was, I believe, a loving thing to do. But whether he FELT love, in a kind of warm fuzzy way, I agree, it isn’t necessary to have those feelings. In fact, sometimes when I love in a sacrificial way it can be through gritted teeth, mustering every ounce of self control and calling on God’s help and support to do so.

  2. O dear what a debate over such a post from David.!
    I too am strangely moved and so glad to hear about the Deliveroo cyclist. It is enough that Jesus was lifted up and another heard words that I pray will follow him and lead him to the truth. Thank you for sharing that David

  3. It is also moving that Parris (by all accounts) wrote kindly and (we assume) fairly about his encounter with our brother, the Deliveroo cyclist. By all accounts, he wrote like a god-fearing intellectual atheist, rather than like a bad-tempered fool, who had said “in his heart” that there is no God, i.e. one whose atheism is as much an expression of wishful thinking as the faith of any believer. To some extent, Parris seems not to be the sort of atheist who doesn’t believe that God exists because he doesn’t want God to exist, and wouldn’t be at all pleased to discover that he was wrong about that.

  4. People run from the witness of Christ-Creation-Conscience. We see this especially with abortion. The Isaiah 53 and One-Solitary-Life lines of argument are strong. The weirdness or far fetched sounding nature of the Bible message is a killer for sceptics. Question: “Why has something so odd lasted so well?” Attempt at an answer “People were different in past times”. Well the answer is just a weird and shallow attempt at an explanation. The gospel possibly never sounded more weird to anyone than it did to 1st Century gentiles. Yet it took hold and ran like wildfire-The Spreading Flame. When Matthew Paris acknowledges the reality of the life of Christ it is grit being inserted into the shell of an oyster. May be a pearl come soon!

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