A hot cup of tea with a bit of sugar and some real cream is such a wonderful relaxing, friendly thing to share. I’m sitting here this evening with the tea things still out and the house suddenly empty and quiet as the mom and her young tribe that came to share some sips and look at all my give-away books has evacuated, a box of homeschool books in tow. It is Thursday, my quiet evening to ponder and write alone.
Why the door? It reminded me of the passage I was pondering this morning, that one where Jesus stands at the door knocking, inviting anyone who hears his voice to open the door. He’s just waiting for the invite to tea—well, to a meal together really. Who wouldn’t open the door? Why was it shut with Jesus on the wrong side in the first place?
Although this verse (Rev.3:20) is often used to describe opening one’s heart to Jesus at salvation, the context is not quite that. It was this context that brought me here this morning. Jesus is addressing a church that has lost sight of its need for Him. “You say, I am rich , I have prospered and I need nothing”. When in reality they are ‘wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked”! Jesus counsels them to come to him for true treasure—for gold refined by fire, (symbolic perhaps of a faith that perseveres through trial; see I Pet.1:7), and for His righteousness (white garments) to hide their shame. And for salve to heal their blinded eyes.
He reminds them His reproof is driven by love and urges this lukewarm church to get zealous, not about doing good works, but about repentance! It is out of this context that the words pop out: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…”
Jesus was on the wrong side of the door perhaps because the Laodiceans felt they were no longer in need of Him. They are ‘doing very well, thank-you’. But Jesus’ own teaching makes it pretty clear that it’s not the one who never visibly wandered but the one who returns home, this one that is blessed. It’s not the ‘righteous persons needing no repentance’ but the sinner who repents that causes all Heaven to party! It’s not the ‘very well, thank-you’ but the sick, that Jesus came to heal.
As you can see, I haven’t quite shaken that ‘elder brother’ lesson from my mind—the goody-goody brother that never left home but somehow still missed enjoying a healthy relationship with his dad, you know the story. Well, being ‘good’ dies hard. I’ve been preaching to myself this week I guess and thinking about those words of Jesus—about all heaven rejoicing far more over the one sinner repenting than over the 99 who feel they are above repentance…
The thing to be celebrated it would seem is repentance, not one’s conscientious ‘goodness’.
I hear it in the story of the rich young ruler too, approaching Jesus confident that he’s on the right track to eternal life, just needing a bit of assurance, or one more official ‘to do’ and he’ll have it. What assignment does Jesus give? Sell all you’ve set your heart on and follow me. Make me your god, not your own self-sufficiency. It’s as if he were saying, it’s not your righteousness that matters, but mine. There’s no premium on ‘goodness’ when it comes to gaining eternal life. We’re not saved because of it, not favored because of it, not loved more because of it. It’s His goodness that counts, His name that is to be hallowed, His glory that is to shine through any good that comes from our lives.
I guess that’s why Jesus was always inviting people to Himself: follow me, abide in me, take my yoke and walk with me, come to me, open the door and let me eat with you…Where did I get the idea that my calling was to ‘be good’? How many times have I admonished my kids to do likewise?
I came across a blog this week by Emily Freeman that set me thinking more about this business of ‘being good’:
It made the case for NOT pressuring our kids to be a good example! Because this could just be a primer to believing that “being a Christian means having it all together, saying all the “right” things, staying a few steps above everyone else.”
She pointed out that requiring our son/daughter to be a good example may set her up to become “a person people look up to, but …[not] someone they can relate to.” It continued:
“She may be successful at managing her behavior, but she will always struggle to manage people’s opinions.”
“She may have a great reputation, but her character will be clouded with bitterness and anger.”
“She may be a good church-goer, but she will not know how to be a good friend.”
“This may keep her out of trouble, but it will suffocate her soul.”
The author seemed to read my objections (and perhaps yours) “But what about holiness?” What about being a light in a dark place? She then points us back to the reality of whose goodness we’re representing.
What’s the alternative to ‘being good’ on the outside and keeping a lid on the rest ‘for example’s sake’? What truth is missed in this scenario? Precisely this, that: “Her light comes from Jesus, not from her awesome behavior.”
I found this to be good food for thought, not just for my daughters (and sons) but for myself. Because so easily being ‘good’ can be about my reputation, my appearance, my credentials, my standing before people. Being known as ‘nice’ or ‘sweet’ or ‘quiet’ or any of those bland descriptors used of people we hardly know…What’s the value of all that? Does it point anyone to Jesus as the One who’s so incredibly good that I owe all I am to Him?
And I sit sipping my tea with all these thoughts as a backdrop. I pore over my frustrations at not knowing what to do to ‘fix’ situations, at not feeling sufficient for those who ‘need’ me to ‘do something’. I find myself wishing this knocking were more audible and this conversation over tea with Jesus more literal. But maybe that’s what faith is for?
It’s soon time to get up and get breakfast going whether I’ve got the advice I’d hoped for or not. I didn’t, at least I didn’t think so at the time. But one thing I take away from this encounter with the Living Word is that I think I’m always meant to need Him. Never meant to think myself ‘good enough’ or responsible enough to do life without Him, never intended to bear the weight of that, to close the door and sort things out in solitude-- doing my best to figuring out what to say, what to ‘do’ because surely somebody’s got to do something(!). I’m not meant to rely on my cleverness or find answers by scratching my own head!
Could it be He hasn’t called me to be ‘good’ (or clever or responsible) but to be open to Him, to be ever dependent--inviting Him into my messes, to be ever repentant and forgiven, to be ever listening for His voice.
Mercifully, He keeps knocking when I forget these things. He’s seems intent on sharing His life with me.
"I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves.” …"This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Lk.22:15-20
“Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live;” Is.55:2,3
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
“But you are…a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” I Pet.2:9
You may want to visit Emily at www.chattingatthesky.com She has some timely words of grace for the ‘good girl’ in need of relief. Her article, “One thing your daughter doesn’t need you to say” is here.