‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” ‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!’ Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
The Church has always fought for the hearts and minds of people. I believe one of the most important things we need to fight for, in our generation, is truth – both professed, and embodied, truth. We live in an age of politicians shouting ‘fake news’ to those sharing inconvenient facts; when conspiracy theories are spread and shared on social media; when people repeat ‘sound bites’ they heard or read about, without checking their validity or even knowing their meaning.
This Gospel passage tells us that people of that time were not much different. Many had jumped on the ‘Jesus bandwagon’ – said the right words and did the right religious acts. However, it didn’t change how they acted or the kind of people they were. They spoke the right doctrines but embodied a wrong morality.
What is the foundation of what we claim to believe? We can choose the shifting sands of popular opinion, or solid truth.
Jesus tells us here that ‘on that day’ people will not be accepted or rejected based on their professed religious beliefs – rather on their character: ‘you evildoers’.
In Protestant churches we place great emphasis on the fact that we are saved by faith, not by deeds – and we are right, nobody will earn their salvation by their good deeds. However, faith is supposed to transform our character; it’s supposed to change the kind of people we are. If it doesn’t, we are only pretending. As St James said in his epistle, “faith without deeds is dead.”
Our character, our kindness and love – or lack of them – are the evidence for how true our faith is.
Lord Jesus, you told us that the foundation of our faith is our character, that faith stands or fails on how we live. Help us to take that to heart; help us to not only profess your truth, but to embody it in everyday living. Help us to reject evil in all its forms, and instead to embody your goodness and kindness. Amen.