When you said, “Following God is useless. There’s no use following God’s instructions. Being a God-person is such a downer. People who have attitude are much happier. And besides, you can do anything you want where God is concerned and get away with it.”
But those who really did follow God stuck together, and God noticed, and God heard them, and God remembered them. In fact, God wrote their names down, so that on day of reckoning they would be claimed as God’s very own.
“As parents hold tight to their own children, I’ll hold tight to my own,” says God. “And then everyone will be able to tell between the good and the bad.”
Sometimes you can get away with a lot of crap for a long time. But don’t get too smug about it. Crap is unsustainable. Eventually, it hits the fan.
On the other hand, if you do good work, if you’re solid, that’s going to show, too. Eventually. But like anything worthwhile, it takes time and effort.
No doubt, it’s hard to keep at it, to stick to what’s important, when everyone else seems to be having such a grand time living the life of Riley. Even worse, when you’re being made fun of for following your calling. That’s when you have to remind yourself of what you’re working toward. That’s when you have to find folks who are following the same path, and stick together.
As he was speaking, a woman in the crowd interrupted him, yelling, “Your mother must be so glad to have born and raised you!”
He called back, “Yes, and those who hear and then do what God asks of them are truly happy!”
At it’s beginning, Luke’s gospel focused on Mary’s having been called and obedient to God in agreeing to give birth to Jesus. In the Magnificat (Luke 1:48), Mary claims that “all generations shall call me blessed.” The woman in the crowd seems to be confirming Mary’s words.
Jesus’ response is that the happiness and fortune Mary experienced was not hers alone. Rather, it’s the result of following your calling: “doing what God asks.” The same happiness is possible for everyone.
I’m not saying that everyone is going to get angelic visits, or hear the voice of God audibly speaking to them. But I think Jesus was convinced that everyone is capable of knowing what they were made to be, who they authentically are. Like the woman in the crowd, though, we get star-struck by the good fortune of others. It’s easy to get so caught up in how much we admire someone else, or wish we could be like them, that we forget how much we have to offer the world ourselves.
If Mary’s story is any indication, saying yes to what we’re called to do takes a huge amount of courage. It’s hard work. Ask anyone who has born and raised a child.
According to Jesus, though, mustering the courage and putting in the effort is the only way to be truly happy. Living vicariously through someone else is never quite the same as living life yourself.
In the same way Moses raised the snake as a banner before the people in the desert, the authentic human must be a banner of real life for everyone to rally around. God loved the world so much that God gave God’s only child to make a way for anyone to follow out of certain death into real life. Certainly, God intended this child to be the world’s rescue, not it’s doom. Those who embrace him are not doomed. But those who don’t embrace him, because they refuse to embrace the way of life, are doomed, by definition.
The verdict is that the spotlight is on. People hide in darkness when they’ve done something wrong. Those who do wrong hate to be exposed and will do anything to avoid being exposed by the spotlight. But if you’ve done right, you’ll want to be in the spotlight so everyone can see the awesome things you’ve done.
Too often, the famous John 3:16 is lifted up (in the end zones at football games, for example) as if it were the magical snake in the wilderness, as if reciting this magical formula would change anyone’s mind.
What the gospel has in mind, though, is that people live authentically human lives as a banner for new life to gather around, and the gospel points to the life of Jesus as being the touchstone of that authentic humanity. It takes more than reciting a theological proposition – even a scriptural one – to lift that banner. It takes embracing a life-giving way of life. It means turning and walking away from life-diminishing activity to life-affirming activity. It means living honestly enough that you have nothing to hide.
The spotlight is on. Forget about “Are you saved?” the more important (and useful) questions are: Are you really who you say you are? Are you really who you appear to be? Are you the same person when (you think) no one is looking? And when you are who you really are, are you authentically human, or are you trying to be something else?