He was quite a character. The first few weeks he came to church he wore striped coveralls and still had some of the tools hanging by the straps on the side. He was only in his early thirties but he had not a single tooth in his mouth. And when he laughed, you got a gum full. Cecil was a beer truck driver and he looked like he sold half and drank the other half. He was big. And crude!
His wife and children had been coming to our church faithfully for some time, but Cecil informed her, he didn’t need any of that “religious stuff”. I couldn’t help but notice him as I was preaching. He seemed to laugh a lot, even when I wasn’t offering up any humor. He was laughing at me, not with me. Even as we shook hands as he left the church, he said farewell with a big, hearty, toothless guffaw. His wife and children were embarrassed. But he kept coming, overalls, tools, toothless laugh and all.
I made up my mind I was not going to put up with this big moose, laughing all the way through my messages. A young preacher myself, I thought I would burn him good. He became a challenge to my authority. It was almost him or me. I got up on the platform one Sunday night and hit it all. Alcohol, disrespect for God’s servants, sinners who laughed at God. I preached them all into Hell fire. Cecil just sat there in the pew, looking up at me with that toothless grin on his face.
Really upset now, I almost dared anyone to come forward. To my utter amazement, someone did. It was Cecil. I wasn’t sure he was coming to get right or to get even. But that night, another miracle took place. Cecil accepted Christ as His Savior and was born again. No thanks to me, I might add. God is merciful. Not only did Cecil need His mercy and grace. We both did. Maybe that night, I even needed it more. But I digress.
After accepting Christ, Cecil’s life began to change drastically. He gave up the beer truck (which was his livelihood.) He came to church in regular dress up clothes, meaning without his usual coveralls. He even managed to secure a set of false teeth.
(I wasn’t going to ask him where he got them, but I did know he worked part time for a local funeral home.) O well, at least, he had them and wore them. Before a year had passed Cecil was teaching an adult Sunday School Class. He was an avid Bible student. In a short time, he left for Bible College, became a pastor, a soul-winner and a testimony to all who know him.
Not until later, did I realize that Cecil wore the coveralls because that was all he had. He had five kids and a wife and so, the false teeth and his own wardrobe had to wait. And his toothless laugh? That was just the way he responded when he didn’t know how to act or re-act or when he was embarrassed. But in fifty years of preaching, I’ve never met anyone who loved God more or God’s Word more than Cecil. He was faithful too. We used to joke the ladies had to lock the door to keep Cecil out of the Ladies Missionary meetings.
I checked, and nowhere in the Bible have I read where it said, “By their looks ye shall know them.” I wonder what would happen if God had said only neat looking ladies or handsome men could be saved. I wonder what would happen in some of our churches if John the Baptist had come to visit. We’d probably ask the ushers to
“gently steer that hippie out the door.” I don’t remember Jesus ever judging anyone because of their appearance but the Pharisees! (Check Matthew 23.)