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.
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.