This is my article as published in the May 1, 2014 issue of The Mena Star.
One night a house caught fire and a young boy was forced to go to the roof. A fireman stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to the boy, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see was flame, smoke, and blackness. He was afraid to leave the roof. The fireman kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, “I can't see you." The fireman replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."
In life each one of us finds ourselves in the same situation as the young boy on the roof. We will be destroyed unless we do something. If we stay in our current situation we will be destroyed by fire. The biggest question in our lives is, what must I do to be saved. In the little boy’s situation the answer was jump. What is the answer in your life?
In Matthew 19 the Bible tells us that a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” The first thing Jesus told him was keep the commandments. The man said to Jesus, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
This man asked the all-important question – What must I do to be saved? But notice how he asked the question. The way he worded the question tells us a lot about him. What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? I think that many of us can relate to this man. I’m leading a pretty good life. What other good thing do I need to do to be saved?
The man wasn't expecting that kind of answer he got. He liked the “limited realm” of righteousness where people stop doing things. He was good at it. He stepped back when Jesus pointed him to the “continuous realm” of righteousness where there is no limit and no end of really caring for other people.
Many of us are very uncomfortable with this whole concept of being a Christian as Jesus explained it. We tend to be Pharisees by nature. We are very happy with negative approaches to law because we like to know where the limits are.
We feel more comfortable when we can see the extent of our obligations. Jesus wants us to see that his true followers aren't trying to see what the limits of their obligations are. He taught this lesson to Peter in Matthew 18. “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Rabbinical law said that you were to forgive three times. Peter thought he was really expanding on that. Jesus told him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven”. Once again, Jesus points out that his true followers aren't trying to see what the limits of their obligations are.
In actuality Peter was not asking “How much can I love my neighbor?” but “When can I stop loving my neighbor?” That’s a very human question. I like that question. When can I stop loving my neighbor? That is where we are as natural people.
When can I stop all this niceness and give people what they deserve? I don’t like grace. Grace is giving people what they don’t deserve. I don’t mind getting it, but I don’t really like passing grace on to others.
Jesus taught Peter that there is never a time when he could stop loving his neighbor or stop passing on God’s grace. Jesus taught that there is no limit to Christian love. Like Peter, we are much more comfortable with the negative than the positive approach to law. We want to know when we have fulfilled our quota of goodness so we can relax and be our normal selves.
How I treat my neighbor is the acid test of Christianity. Out of that principle comes a meaningful keeping of God’s laws. Because I love my neighbor, I will not covet my neighbor’s car, house, wife, or husband. Because I love my neighbor, I cannot use him or her as a sexual object for my own pleasure. Because I love my neighbor, I will not take things that belong to him. Because I love my neighbor, I will not kill or even hate him.
Love to God and neighbor is the centerpiece of Christianity. “By this,” said Jesus, “all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Let’s go back to the story of the boy on the roof. The fireman called to the boy, "Jump! I'll catch you." But the boy protested, “I can't see you." The fireman replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."
What must I do to be saved? I need to trust Jesus so much that I will jump into his arms. He can’t save me if I don’t trust him enough to jump. He can’t save me if I am busy trying to save myself.
It’s time for us to really believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe enough to surrender our will and jump into his arms. Will you jump with me today?