One of the most haunting passages in the Bible has to be Matthew 7:20-23, where Jesus tells a group of people to depart from Him because He never knew them. These people are claiming that they believed in Him and did great works for Him, yet Jesus doesn’t recognize them because they never did the things He told them to do. The actions Christ expects us to take are clearly outlined in His teaching on ‘The Sheep and the Goats” in Matthew 25:31-46, a passage I discussed in some length in a three part post on this passage (see parts 1, 2, 3, and 4). Jesus plainly lays out the actions He expects of those who would call Him ‘Lord’. Whether or not we choose to do these things determines if we will be welcomed into His arms or turned away as a stranger when our lives are over and we are judged by the King of the Universe. It takes faith to believe Jesus is who He claimed to be; it takes obedience to live out our faith. Both the faith and obedience elements are required for entrance into eternal life with God.
Having said this, I was told a very troubling story this week. A woman I know has recently taken a poor single mom under her wing. The relationship has been difficult at times as trust is developed and lives from two different worlds are melded together. The woman I know is part of a small group comprised of seasoned Christians from various churches. She related some of the challenges she faced in dealing with the single mom to the group, and asked that they pray for wisdom for this single mom. Instead, she received several judgmental responses. One said “Is she black?” Another responded, “She’s probably working the system.” And still another, “She’s more than likely addicted to drugs.” When the woman I know related the story above to me, I was crushed. God forgive us. Where do these attitudes come from, and how do they inhabit the heart of those who claim to be followers of Christ? More troublesome still, two of the members of that small group happen to be elders at my church. While I was grateful that neither of them were the sources of the comments above, I was disappointed that they did not speak up and defend the cause of the single mother and provide leadership and correction to the group.
While it may sound as if I am being judgmental of some in this small group, it is not my intention. Rather, my goal here is to point out how easy it is for even seasoned Christians to act in ways that are anything but what Christ told us to do. Instead of showing compassion for the single mother or even support for a fellow believer, they chose instead to pass judgment on the very one Christ commanded them to serve. We don’t need more Pharisees in our world, we need more people who will follow Jesus and do what He said to do. For too long, those of us in so-called evangelical circles have swallowed the lie that all we need to do is say the right prayer and we are guaranteed eternity in Heaven. This is not what the Bible teaches and I believe will lead to scores of disappointed and horrified “Christians” when they stand before God and are judged, indeed, by their works. Believing in Jesus gains us entrance to the throne room; obeying His commands, doing the things He told us to do, allows us to take up permanent residence there.
Are you a follower of Jesus or simply a believer? Do you do the things He told you to do or are you content with a fraudulent fire insurance policy? Believing in Jesus is not enough; as James said, even the demons believe in Him… and they shudder! (James 2:18,19). Don’t find yourself shuddering and shut out from God’s presence when it is your time to stand before Him. Instead, show compassion and mercy on everyone in need, love your neighbor, and devote your life to the service of the one you call ‘Lord’. Love God, and obediently do the work He has given to you; then you will be welcomed into His arms and never hear those awful words, “Depart from Me; I never knew you.”