Whose Opinion Really Matters?

 
felix-russell-saw-113844.jpg
 
 

As Christians, are we more afraid of what people will say if they discover us fraternizing with criminals and deadbeats, or with people who are regarded as wise and examples of a life well lived? In the Gospels (Matthew 7:22), Jesus reserves His harshest criticism and judgment for those who on the last day will say to Him: "Yes, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name and do many great works?" These are the people Jesus says will be cast into hell while those who are dead-beat, dead drunk, or just dead in sin will be welcomed into the wedding feast of the Lamb with cheers and celebration. But, why? 

Jesus calls the wise and holy people, "workers of evil." They do not do good works in the right way. So, He attacks them for their pride and for never accepting the judgment of God, or for disregarding their own horrible sin. For this reason, they do not recognize that He is the Savior. The religious leaders do not know Jesus as the Christ, so they do not know, trust, call on, or teach the truth about God. All they do is for their own sake, to make themselves out to be something special when they are – in relation to God – nothing, dead men walking, damned.

But, all the people who lose hope on account of their sin, who lament their hellish existence, He gladly hears and answers. They are not smug or believe they can act on God's behalf even if God has not given His blessing. It is quite the opposite with the criminals and deadbeats. They offer no sacrifice to God, especially not their works and ways, because they know who they are, and when they forget, there are plenty of people queued up to remind them: "Aren't you that prostitute, how dare you come to such a respectable dinner party without an invitation!"

Those in Need of a Savior

The wise and winners of Jesus' day (just as they are still to this today) do not comprehend that the only sacrifice, the only offering God will accept, is a broken heart. When the prostitute weeps upon Jesus' feet then uses those same tears to wash His feet with her hair, she does not then declare: "Now that I have shown you the proper piety and devotion, having made my sacrifice with the correct posture and tears, can I now receive the reward for my service?" Instead, the woman asks for nothing. She is too broken, damaged, and deadened to the Lord’s mercy to utter even the simplest of prayers. But, Jesus is near to the broken-hearted, and so, it is as though He turns back to His host and points out to the whole dinner party, to every winner at the table, that this deadbeat's tears are more preferable to His Father than all the works of all the religious men in Israel. Her suffering more blessed and beloved by God than all the other doings at the dinner party that day.

Only the poor are in need of a Savior, and only the dead need faith, hope, and love delivered to them by the hand of the Almighty.
— Donavon Riley

The poor in spirit have nothing left to offer God but crying, begging, and praying for belief, hope, and limitless love. And we cannot get any more poor than dead, whether we are dead-beat, dead drunk, dead in sin, or just plain dead. 

That is why the life of us Christians is marked by behavior that does not know or have anything to do with wisdom and winning in the way the world measures them. Instead, we come to the Lord with tears, hopeless, with no works of our own to boast about. We cry to Him for faith, and for hope, and for a love that we have never felt or discovered on this side of the resurrection. 

Those who do not understand this about God do not know His Christ because they are more concerned with how they are perceived and praised by their neighbors than how they are judged by our Lord Christ. Only the poor are in need of a Savior, and only the dead need faith, hope, and love delivered to them by the hand of the Almighty. Only in this way can we be satisfied and filled. Only then will we Christians not worry about how we are viewed by others when we fraternize with criminals and deadbeats. Only then will we recognize Jesus has always been with us, with everyone, in their poverty and hopelessness. Then we will be rescued from fear and dread about how we are judged, whether our relationships and works are fruitful or unfruitful, harmful or comforting, despised or disapproved of by the wise and winners of this world. Instead, we will abandon worrying about whether others can offer us security, a boost to our self-esteem, or whether they regard us as equals. All that matters to us is Jesus who is for us all faithfulness, all hopefulness, and all kindness. And only His opinion of us matters.

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'.