Live to Save

Once I was saved by a taxi driver.

It was the late afternoon in hot and dusty Lagos, Nigeria. I needed to get to the airport from my hotel. I found a taxi and negotiated what I thought to be a reasonable fare.

From the outset, it was clear that I could miss my flight. The traffic was more or less at a standstill. Juggernaut lorries were bearing down on everything and everyone in their path, passengers crammed into dirty buses like hens in battery cages, car horns beeping, radios throbbing out loud polyrhythmic beats, people yelling and laughing. Only the hawkers were moving as they worked their predatory way among the stationary vehicles.

Chased by angry men

“I’ll pay you more if you find a shortcut,” I told the driver. Suddenly we veered off down what looked like a blind alley. I did not recognize any of the places we passed, and I was more than a little tense. We entered one of Lagos’ many shantytowns. How could this be the right direction? We slowed down to turn a corner where a group of five men were hovering. They turned to look at us, and one of them pointed to me in the back of car. They began to chase us. They picked up stones and debris and threw them at the taxi, hurling racist abuse as they went. I am pretty sure they meant to rob me, and who knows what violence would have ensued.

What about my driver? Could I trust him? Would he stop to protect himself? Would he give me up to them? Or would he even join them? All I could see were his eyes reflected in the rear view mirror.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of this,” he said. He drove as fast as he could along the uneven road, but the gang was catching up. I panicked more when I saw in front of us the mother of all potholes. I had seen potholes of all shapes and sizes in my African travels. This was huge and sprawling. I could not see how deep it was. I thought, “This is it, there’s no way out now.”

My driver, however, went straight on, drove over its precipice-like edge, slid down into its belly, and then accelerated up over the other side. I looked around to see the men break their run at the rim of the pothole, and one of them tumbled, falling inside. The others swore and shook their fists at us. We got to the airport with just a few moments to spare. I gave the driver all the Nigerian currency I had left as a tip. This man, whose face I don’t remember and whose name I never knew, had perhaps saved my life.

God helps us

Do you ever wonder how God intervenes in our lives? As a Christian, I interpret events in the light of my faith. A non-believer might say that I just had a lucky escape. Maybe. But in my mind there are so many of them, so many times when things could have been worse, much worse; so many unusual and unexpected moments of salvation. You’d think I would have learned to anticipate them by now, but I haven’t. I feel an affinity with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Remember when, after Gabriel had announced to her about how her child would save the world, she pondered those things in her heart. I ponder God’s saving moments in my heart. Perhaps you do the same.

Being human, we tend to think more of how God works to help us. Jesus said that he was among us as one who serves, and he continues to serve us to this day. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. We value his acts of service, and it is right that we should.

The gospel, however, is not just about us and about how God saves us eternally and daily. It is also about how Jesus calls us to participate in his salvation of everyone. That calling above all involves our unabashed witnessing to what Jesus has done for us. We preach Jesus and his resurrection. We are his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In addition, we are part of God’s everyday compassion toward others, of his mercies, which “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23). With God’s guidance, we seek ways to aid and assist others practically and verbally, thus producing in us and perhaps in them the Spirit’s fruits. Jesus practices his saving acts toward others through us. His ministry of service continues through us.

I don’t know what you think about the state of the world, but aren’t we in a mess? Sometimes it seems as if we are all heading into the mother of all potholes! He supplied someone like you and me an unexpected answer to help me when I needed it most. I realized later that I did not for one minute think about how to save the taxi driver from what could happen to him. After all, the gang could have assaulted him and taken his car. Of course, the driver no doubt thought of himself. But he also thought of me. He thought to comfort and save me.

The ironic thing is that, when I got into the taxi, the driver had asked me what I did for a living. “I’m a Christian pastor,” I told him, “and I train other pastors in how to minister to others.” “Oh,” he said, “I’m a born-again Christian, too.” “Sure,” I thought to myself, “probably just a cultural Christian who does not really practice his faith.” How often we judge others. Or, should I say, how often we misjudge others?

Saved in order to save

We all share in the suffering of the world. Just as others around us go through difficult times, so do we. Most of us have a story to tell about family tragedy or illness or making ends meet. Together we participate in life’s ups and downs. But do we participate in Christ’s salvation of others?

As we threaded our way through decrepit alleys of the shantytown, I remember seeing a sign on a church wall that read, “Have you received your miracle today?” God spared me not just to live to be saved another day, but also to save another day. More time to participate in the saving acts of Jesus. We are blessed so that we might be a blessing to others.

Have you given someone his or her miracle today?

Photo Credits: 123RF

James Henderson
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