Do you have any friends that are “good?”

Do you have any friends that are “good?” I hope you do. But what I am getting at is whether you have any non-Christian friends that are . . . .  let me just say, “ nice people.” Sure they may drink a little too much. Maybe they at times use the Lord’s name in ways that make you internally blush. They think you and your ways are funny when the subject comes to “religion.” But they also are good to their kids and yours. They attend funerals of friends. Sometimes they even give to good causes and champion community needs. By the world’s standards they ARE good people. In fact, they’re nicer than some Christians you know. With the “good” people we know, why is it so hard for us to be honest about the gospel with them?

The Bible says they are sinners in need of a Savior. It’s difficult to convince them of that because often their perspective of sin is defined more along the lines of murder, rape and possibly adultery. And they haven’t done those things. How do you reach these otherwise “good” people when the only standard they operate from is the world’s, and it requires some pretty awful and punishable behaviors for the acknowledgment of “sin” to even enter the conversation..

The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) deal similarly with an account of a wealthy young man who approaches Jesus with a legitimate question. As I reference what occurs here, I think it is legitimate to expand the meaning of the word “rich” to “good” or “self-assured.” I think you’ll agree it also encompasses people with this characteristic. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich (good, self-assured) person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark. 10:25)

Looking into Mark 19, the man’s question was fair. “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus gave him a short list from the 10 Commandments which dealt with relationships with people and he claimed to have maxed the test. I think he was waiting for Jesus to say “You’re good to go,” but he didn’t.Jesus looked at him and said,“How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! (Luke 18:24)

Notice though, before Jesus lowered the boom on this fellow, Mark’s gospel says “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus says it just before he says “One thing you lack. He thought he might have lacked something, that’s why he approached Jesus to begin with. Jesus delivered the hard news, but he did it out of love. His command was simple and clear, though hard for the man to take. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.” Matthew’s gospel adds this: “If you want to be perfect (complete), go and sell your stuff . . . “  Now I’m not sure if this was what Jesus expected the man to do or if it was a “gut check” in faith. After all, Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his precious only son and when he proceeded in obedience, God intervened. Notice also, that Jesus didn’t chase after the man to renegotiate the terms of salvation. He lets him walk away, hopefully to ponder the challenge before him. (Our “good” friends may do likewise.)

Jesus, in love, invited this young man into the kingdom. We are to do likewise. “Good” people don’t usually have the self-awareness that something critical is missing in their life and that we are all rebels from the start, at enmity with God, our Creator, and in desperate need of his forgiveness. I emphasize all because in humility we need to acknowledge that we are cut from the same soiled cloth. This is not a “Now I’m better than you because I discovered Jesus”   mindset. This is more alike to “God helped me to discover who I really was and he’s in the business of rescuing me from all that.”

It is very difficult and most unlikely that we can refute the claim that we have ever lied, stolen, cheated, lusted or used the Lord’s name inappropriately (which the Bible calls blaspheming.) Our “good” friends can’t either.We all start on common ground and that ground is shaky. God calls it sin. His standards of morality and purity vastly exceed ours and this can make it difficult for us to acknowledge why he would be displeased with us. He holds us responsible for our thoughts even though the acts of sin such as murder, lust and hate may be far from our intentions. He is greatly opposed to sin, yet he has created a path in which everyone can navigate through sin to find him.

Like it or not, God established the rules for fellowship with him and continues to provide the escape from the penalty for our sin. As with the wealthy young man, God looks at us (and our “good” friends) with love to say “one thing you lack.” Our approach to those we know who do not know Jesus should also have the look and sound of Jesus’ love. Think About It.

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