Several years ago when I visited a Small Group of our church, my eyes laid hold on what I had initially imagined to be a songbook I had not seen before. But no sooner had I flipped the pages, I knew right-away that it was the same old songbook we had been using in years-gone-by during our YPG days. One thing has changed though – the cover. Instead of it being in its familiar blue, the SG group had reprinted the songbook, using the colour red instead. Talk about not judging a book by its cover!
Through years of wear and tear, the cover and pages of the songbooks we used to hold on our hands will have to be replaced. But the truths of the lyrics will continue to enliven the spirit of all, as for example that evening amongst the Small Group members as we sung those same familiar song. This is similar for the Bibles we hold in our hands. I suppose most of us are in possession of dog-eared ones (not-withstanding the current popularity of electronic Bibles). Perhaps some are stained with unmentionables. But all the same, within its pages is God’s Word of Life. We continue to be blessed by the truths contained between the soiled covers of our Bibles.
Sadly however, the wisdom of not judging a book by its cover can also turn up ugly truths that are otherwise hidden. It was Jesus, who in reprimanding the hypocritical teachers of the Law and Pharisees said, ‘. . . You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matt. 23:27,28).
I suppose most of us come to church today wearing a smile on our faces. For some of us, perhaps, there may be those weighed down by sin that is crippling our Christian testimony but well camouflaged by our exterior demeanour. For some others, hidden in the recesses of our inner beings are the cries of despair, frustration, anger and bitterness. There are those of us who are going through very trying family situations, difficult working environments or overwhelmingly school situations. These are all the realities of life.
There may be a brother of sister sitting just next to you, looking godly, but carrying a load of sinful practices. There may be a hurting brother or sister looking cheerful and on top of the world but who is wallowing through the pits of despair. There may be those amongst us who are experiencing financial, social, psychological or medical stress, but all well-concealed by our exterior looks. A book cannot be judged by its cover. Let us not take each other for granted. Offer a prayer for the one sitting next to you.
Elder Richard Lai