“Not everyone who says to me Lord Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21
We learn from an early age that it’s easier to make bold claims than it is to follow through with actions. I remember standing in front of my house with my friends Jimmy and TJ right when we were all in elementary school. We all lived in the same neighborhood and played together often. On this particular day TJ started bragging about his eyesight and claiming that he could see miniscule details far off in the distance, a distance that I now know was at least a mile away. We all knew he was lying, but we had no way to prove it. Because we couldn’t prove it, his words hung in the air as a bold claim of his abilities. It was at that point when I started to realize it’s much easier to talk about greatness than to actually perform greatness. It’s easier to talk about stopping a bully than it is to actually stand up to a bully. It’s easier to brag of one’s athletic ability than it is to perform on the court or diamond. Words are easier to say.
As we get older, we continue to live out of that same lesson we learned as children. We soon recognize that making bold claims, whether we follow through or not, gains us notoriety and honor. Thus we realize we can make claims that we know exactly how to solve the nation’s problems or a company’s problems, because we recognize we will probably never be forced to try to back up those words. We make bold claims on social media about our love for the poor and distraught and we become satisfied with multiple likes to our comments, so that it doesn’t matter whether we actually follow through or not. It’s much easier to make bold claims than to live out the actions.
Therefore it hits close to home when Jesus says that not everyone who claims Christianity is actually a Christian, but only the ones who do the Father’s will and produce fruit. It makes us wonder if perhaps the traits that we’ve always valued most in determining one’s faithfulness (such as purity, church attendance and leadership, or respect from others) don’t actually matter as much as living out faith before a hurting world.
Somewhere along the way we lost sight of what is most important. Remember, Jesus isn’t talking to a bunch of pagans or gentiles, he’s talking to Jews, men and women raised in Jewish homes that still keep the festivals and follow the purity laws. Jesus looks at this group of God followers and says, church, at some point we’ve lost sight of what is most important. Perhaps it was during the exile, or maybe it goes all the way back to demanding a king to rule over us, thinking the right government would save us, but we lost sight of what it means to be a follower of God. It’s not about church attendance, purity, and keeping the festivals. It’s about fruit. It’s about meekness, humility, honoring your marriage vows, sharing your possessions, putting your trust in God, and being holy. What separates the bold claimers from the disciple, is love.
I’m reminded of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13.
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Jesus says it doesn’t matter what you do, what religious practices you engage in or what church confessions you make, if it’s not motivated by love, it means nothing. It doesn’t matter how many positive Christian posts you make on social media, how many bumper stickers you place on your car, or how much you give to charity, if it’s not motivated in love, it’s just empty, noisy words.
The question is, do I love God enough that I’m willing to live out this crazy form of discipleship when it really isn’t easy. And do I love my neighbors enough. The ones I see and the ones I don’t see. The ones like me (race, education, socio-economic class) and the ones not like me. The ones who worship the Christian God and the ones who worship Allah, Buddha, or nothing. Do I love all of my neighbors enough to live out this love before them, with them, and because of them in the name of Jesus.
How do you tell the true disciples from the false? It’s love. It’s always been about love. Just saying you follow God means nothing. But living out love for God and others while producing fruit; that’s discipleship.