Reframing our questions
Luke 18: 18-30 (NRSV)
18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother.’” 21 He replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard this, he became sad; for he was very rich. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 He replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”
28 Then Peter said, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.”
Am I good? Am I good enough? What do I need to do to be good? What do I need to change to be good enough?
Fair questions. Hard questions. Questions which can lead to sleepless nights and anxious days if we understand the concept of sin. Questions which need not trouble us in the slightest if we understand the concept of grace.
One of my clients had a mantra for his legal advisers — get it right, first time, every time. I can just about manage that in the legal context, but can I constantly and consistently avoid sin and act the way God would want? I have the insight to know I will fail. As I grow older I get greater insight that my failures are worse and more frequent than even I realise.
The gospel is — both literally and theologically — “Good News”. None of us can work our way into heaven or God’s good books through our own efforts. But we don’t need to. The central riff of the Jesus story is that he has done the hard work for us. Through what C.S. Lewis was referring to as “the deeper magic” in his allegorical Narnia books, Jesus takes the rap for our badness. All we need to do is realise who he is and accept that. Our record is wiped clean.
Realising that freedom is often a life’s work. Knowing how to use that freedom certainly is.
Father God, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to save us. I know I still let you down but thank you that, when I ask in Jesus’ name, you will forgive me. Amen.