As I was cleaning the kitchen yesterday I looked out the window and saw a man in our yard taking a picture of the back of our car. Strange. When I went out to investigate he told me that there had been a complaint. He is from the township and dropped by to check things out. Somebody had called the local authorities because they assumed that our blue 1999 Dodge Neon had been abandoned. First of all, who abandons a car in their own driveway?! Wouldn’t I have to leave it on the side of the road somewhere or ditch it in the wilderness? Secondly, the car is fully insured and up to date with registration.
There is no problem with wanting to keep the neighborhood to a certain standard. Cars up on cinder blocks with dogs living in them isn’t the kind of place I want this to be. But, the only evidence of the car being abandoned is the fact that I haven’t driven it in a few months. It’s at the far end of our driveway at the back part of our home about 100 feet from the street where people driving by can’t see it unless they’re trying to. We’ve been using my father-in-laws car while he’s out of the country, so why use the beater if we don’t have to? Okay, there’s the side mirror that somebody broke for us that is hanging down because I don’t want to fix it until I have to. It’s a cash flow thing while I’m not fully employed. We live in a great neighborhood, so the mirror thing was a bit of a shocker.
The man from the town understood and even seemed a little dismissive of the complaint. Maybe it was an act for my benefit, or so that he wouldn’t have to deal with an irate resident. I wouldn’t want his job. He was soon on his way.
You know what would have been better? It would have been great if the person concerned about the car acted like a neighbor and had come to inform me of the town ordinance (or whatever they call it) forbidding abandoned cars. They may have learned about our temporary situation, or even have saved us from a potentially embarrassing situation with the town. Of course, the identity of the complainer wasn’t revealed, so I’m left wondering who would have done this. It’s all good now, but a certain amount of paranoia had set in and I don’t think my reaction was peculiar among the human race.
Jesus knew what he was doing when he set out a process for complaints in the church: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15, NIV)” Looks can be deceiving. What may look like a sin may have an explanation. Or, maybe you can help dissolve a situation and save someone embarrassment. That should be the difference between our Christian communities and communities not based on authentic relationships.
If a neighbor had chatted with me an brought up the car I would not have been offended. In fact, bringing up info about the towns view of abandoned cars would have given me insight on what it looked like and I would have thanked him or her. I imagine there are those in the church who feel the same.