Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Thought for Tuesday 21 October 2014

“[The rich young ruler] came and said to Jesus, ‘Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’  Jesus replied, ‘Why do you call Me good?  No one is good but One; that is, God.  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments … [and] if you want to be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come and follow Me.”  Matthew 19:16-17, 21-22 NKJV

‘If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments …”  Wait, what??  But St. Paul said …

And here we go.  Too often Christians look for any biblical excuse to be found to just be “saved” or “justified”; that is, forgiven without regard to any other.  Divine mercy is a mystery no one will ever be able to put into human words, but Jesus is not speaking exclusively about that one thing, that one event, nor is He offering an easy way out of social responsibility.  And notice this: Jesus is rejecting the notion that “family comes first” in the most definitive terms because if we get rid of all we have, there is nothing left for us or for our families!

Rather than focus strictly on what Jesus may be rejecting (or trying to use St. Paul as a way out!), we should look more closely at what Jesus is offering – yes – in the ‘law’; that dreaded, cursed ‘law’ St. Paul declares we are no longer under.  “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  But, the young man asks, “Which ones?”  Which commandments?  Jesus lists some of the “Ten”, but then He wraps it up with “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The fullness of the love of God is expressed in our obedience to Him even if we do not fully understand why.  We cannot use St. Paul as an excuse not to be diligent about The Lord’s statutes and ordinances (especially because Paul does not offer excuses!).  Our failure is not strictly defined by a rejection of The Lord’s instruction itself; rather our failure is defined by our refusal to understand that “entering into life” is not about “me” – it is about our “neighbor”, and that defined by Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.  What we often fail to understand is that the ‘law’ (our word) is not about how well “me” can obey; it is entirely about how deeply we can love The Lord – and this is expressed by how faithfully we attend to one another, including the “stranger”, the “foreigner”.

One final thought.  Jesus told the man, “if you want to be perfect …”   In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands that “you shall be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  So we are to look more carefully and closely at what perfection means, what it really looks like, to be in love with The Lord.  We cannot claim to love Jesus if we treat our ‘neighbor’ with disdain lest we be exposed as “liars” (1 John 2:4).

Jesus is clear: don’t worry about “getting saved”.  Worry more about your ‘neighbor’, and see to their comfort.  Give them all you have to give, “and you will have treasure in Heaven.”



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