Love speaks pre­cisely

The Covington News - - Religion - JONATHAN SCHARF COLUM­NIST Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Cov­ing­ton. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day is at 10:30 a.m. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at abid­ing­grace.com.

With to­day’s col­umn, I’m start­ing a se­ries of col­umns that play off of our church body’s theme this year: “Christ’s Love, Our Call­ing.” It’s all about how Christ’s love for you gives you pur­pose — a call­ing. And this se­ries looks at what God said about our call­ing to speak his truth in love. In 2 Corinthi­ans, Paul writes: “It is writ­ten: ‘I be­lieved; there­fore I have spo­ken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also be­lieve and there­fore speak.”

Be­cause of what God has done for us, we speak. To­day, Je­sus shows us that love speaks pre­cisely. As he was go­ing around preach­ing, Luke records this:

Some­one asked him, “Lord, are only a few peo­ple go­ing to be saved?” He said to them, “Make ev­ery ef­fort to en­ter through the nar­row door, be­cause many, I tell you, will try to en­ter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand out­side knock­ing and plead­ing, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will an­swer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ (Luke 13:23-25)

Do you notice how care­ful Je­sus was in mak­ing sure that ev­ery­one un­der­stands ex­actly what he is talk­ing about? He loved them enough to reach out to them with his time and work — so he wants to make sure that they get what he is say­ing, that no one miss the point. Love speaks pre­cisely, be­cause, as our text makes clear — the con­fu­sion is great.

There will be those who think they are just fine, but will find them­selves on the wrong side of the judg­ment. That’s scary. So Je­sus loved them enough to make this gen­eral ques­tion very spe­cific, very per­sonal.

He’s asked about the oth­ers: “Are only a few go­ing to be saved?” His an­swer makes us re­al­ize he’s talk­ing to each and ev­ery one of us.

Es­sen­tially, he’s say­ing, “Don’t worry about them for a minute…what about you? Are you get­ting it? Are you find­ing the true door? Je­sus tells ev­ery sin­gle one of us, “Make ev­ery ef­fort to en­ter through the nar­row door… be­cause there are plenty of peo­ple who think they are in but will find them­selves out­side.”

You see, look­ing at how Je­sus han­dles it, the asker of the ques­tion didn’t re­ally fully un­der­stand the ques­tion he asked. He didn’t un­der­stand the word “saved.” In verse 26, Je­sus tells us that the peo­ple on the out­side of the judg­ment will be say­ing, We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets. But he will re­ply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evil­do­ers!’ There will be weep­ing there, and gnash­ing of teeth, when you see Abra­ham, Isaac and Ja­cob and all the prophets in the king­dom of God, but you your­selves thrown out. (Luke 13:26-28).

They thought they were fine, but didn’t un­der­stand the word “saved.” Sadly, all too many to­day don’t get it ei­ther — which is why we need to speak pre­cisely.

In Je­sus’ day, it was the Pharisees and the ones like them who did all the reli­gious ac­tiv­ity with­out trust, with­out re­al­iz­ing what that word “saved” meant. In our day, we clearly see both ex­tremes, with the dis­ci­ples of Oprah on one side, who are “spir­i­tual but not reli­gious” say­ing that they have in­ner spir­i­tu­al­ity and don’t need to re­ally spend time in God’s word or wor­ship be­cause it’s all about a feel­ing they have. And sure, it sounds good to be spir­i­tual, and it’s easy to get caught up in that line of think­ing be­cause there is that shred of truth — that it’s not about the for­mal­i­ties of church but about the re­la­tion­ship with God. The prob­lem is just call­ing your­self spir­i­tual doesn’t re­ally mean any­thing with­out the word.

And then there are those that are “reli­gious but not spir­i­tual” — the ones go­ing through the mo­tions and do­ing what ap­pears to be good and fol­low­ing all the rules, even some­times mak­ing up some ex­tra rules to fol­low — but they don’t get that word “saved” ei­ther. Nei­ther group re­ally sees their need for it. And it’s hard to speak pre­cisely to them too, be­cause what they are do­ing looks pretty good. But love speaks pre­cisely. That’s not easy. Je­sus just says it’s vi­tal.

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