Saying All the Right Words
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21
At the opening of most AA meetings, the participants read through the 12 steps. It’s a useful reminder of how AA works and I understand why we do it, but I’ve read through those 12 steps many times without actually doing them. The steps are profoundly helpful in recovery, but just repeating the words, isn’t the same as living them. I can say that I’m living in recovery, but if I’m still using drugs, then my words are worthless.
This is similar to Jesus’ warning in today’s passage. In it, Christ explains that there are those who claim, with their words, to follow him, while their actions reveal that they do not. Jesus doesn’t say we are saved by our works, but he insists that if we truly have faith in God, that faith must impact our behavior. Those who know God are not those who just claim to know him, but rather, those who do his will.
The terrifying thing about this passage, is that those to whom Jesus is speaking, seem to think they have authentic faith when they don’t. These are people who would gladly say, “I’m a Christian”. If they only say it though, without living it, then Jesus insists they’re frauds, whether they know it or not.
What does it mean to Do the will of the Father? What does God ask of us? He asks that we love him above all, and that we love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39). Jesus commanded that we daily must abandon our path for his (Luke 9:23). He goes on to say that we must share with others what he has done for us (Matthew 28:19-20).
This isn’t easy. These things require hard work and sacrifice. It would be much easier if faith simply meant believing God exists. Jesus though, says that isn’t faith. Faith means we believe in something so much that it changes how we live.
None of us will follow God perfectly in this life. That is why Christ died, to forgive us for our failures. Forgiveness though, is meant to lead to changed behavior (Romans 2:4). When it comes to recovery or faith, it’s not enough just to say the words. We must live them.