I Need a Good Reference

I spend much of my professional life writing references. Usually they are explaining a young man’s suitability for a university course; sometimes they’re for someone desiring a part-time job in a fruit and veg shop. Today, I wrote one for a man who has almost completed a Law degree and wishes to join one of the London inns of court for training as a barrister. Writing an appropriate reference is quite an art form; one must offer a truthful assessment of a person’s abilities and compatibility with the role’s requirements. Occasionally, I have attempted to decline referring, on the grounds of a lack good things to say or being insufficiently acquainted. At those times when I must write a reference for one whose attitudes and abilities are poor, I must be especially artful and calculating in my choice of words. 

Most jobs and even voluntary roles require one or two references. What about our place in heaven? If I were to spend my professional life with someone, I’d like previous employers to vouch for their character. If I am to spend an eternity in heaven, I might expect the administrators thereof to check through my own. What would it say?

‘Mr Marsden was born in sin, a child of wrath. He was a man of unclean lips and lived among a people of unclean lips. He was a wretched man, sold as a slave to sin…’

I hear you object: but you are a Christian, such things no longer count. Ok then, how about this?

‘Mr Marsden, although a believer, regularly failed his Lord. His prayer-life was poor and he often daydreamed in sermons, especially his own. He said what he shouldn’t have, failed to do the good he could have, and as for his thoughts…’

Thank God, the only reference I’ll hand over, if asked, is one bearing the name of Jesus the Christ. It is on His merit that I attain heaven; it is on the basis of His good character that I will be admitted:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21