We had done a fair mileage over our seven day holiday near Venice, driving on to Lake Garda and also later in the week to the wonderfully welcoming city of Verona. I regularly used the car park on the Venetian island of Tronchetto, which was surprisingly good value.
But now back to where we began – at the Hertz dept at Marco Polo airport.
I handed my keys in to the assistant who then proceeded to go to the car to check its condition. When I say check, I mean minutely examine every square inch of this much-travelled vehicle for any possible damage. She was a woman with a mission.
And she succeeded, identifying an ever-so slight abrasion at the back right of the Punto. To call it a scratch would be an exaggeration. (You can see the photo when this blog is posted on our church website!)
The point is that I had declined taking out the offered cover of total insurance protection – which would have virtually doubled the price of the car. I was liable for the first 1000€ – and now I was being made to pay for my refusal.
(As it happens I have a special insurance policy for rental car excess – and so hopefully I can just pass the excess expense to this insurer.)
Sadly we too can become just as fault-finding as this car rental official, searching out the slightest weakness in others, their most insignificant failures. Not least in our public life.
“We live in a world where finding fault in others seems to be the favourite blood sport,” reports educator Henry Eyring. “It has long been the basis of political campaign strategy. It is the theme of much television programming across the world. It sells newspapers. Whenever we meet anyone, our first, almost unconscious reaction may be to look for imperfections.”
And of course, such fault finding can so easily fail to allow for our own failings. So Jesus teaches “How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:4).
It is as if by finding fault in others we can excuse our own. But the whole point of being loved by Jesus is that we are loved with a passion and with a commitment by God who knows us through-and-though. As ever in the Christian life, the first step is to realize just how much we are loved and valued by God.
So the apostle Paul writes: “So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault” (Romans 14:19). We are called to be warm and welcoming.
We still have the same faults and failings, the same inclination to selfishness and pride – but such is the power of the Cross that we are forgiven and restored. Now the Holy Spirit is at work, making us worthy of God’s calling.
So the apostle Paul, who had as much reason as anyone to find fault in others, invariably addresses his readers, even those in Corinth, as holy people. “I send this letter to you in God’s church at Corinth, believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God-filled life.” (1 Corinthians 1:1).
Such is our security as beloved disciples that we do not fear any Hertz-like examination of our lives. And that is to show in the way we relate to others, however damaged their lives may be.