“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” (Luke 6: 46-49).
One of the biggest problems we Christians face is that we know what is expected of us.
Because the Gospel is something tremendously simple to understand and it is clearly explained in the Bible.
However, it is also very difficult to live with.
Issues such as loving our enemies, following God’s holiness, forgiving those who offend us, turning the other cheek or returning good for evil, are acts that demand a lot of effort and learning to depend on God.
But others, however, are very easy to imitate, as Jesus denounced with his question, “Why do you call me, Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?”.
This ease of imitation makes it very easy to fall into the error of hiding behind a facade of appearance. And I know what I am talking about, I am the son and grandson of evangelical Christians, and I know the risk of simulating Christian behavior.
This is what Jesus emphasized in Matthew chapter 23. In it he lambastes the hypocrisy of the spiritual leaders of that time, and accuses them of basing their whole life on appearance. They were like ornate tombs, very showy on the outside, but full of death on the inside.
But this attitude was not exclusive to the leaders of that time. This is something that also happens today among all types of Christians. In the same way that corruption or deceit are not exclusive to certain social classes but, as Ecclesiastes 9:11 says, “time and occasion befalls everyone”, and it is up to each one to respond in the appropriate way.
That is why Jesus asks us this question: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
It costs us nothing to be “lip service” Christians. Consider the following exercise: record yourself when you are going to pray and listen to the recording afterwards.
In more than 90% of the prayers, every 5 or 6 words we introduce expressions such as “God”, “Father”, “Lord”, “Holy” or other similar ones. In some cases it is so exaggerated that, in joint prayer meetings, you may not understand the brother’s or sister’s prayer.
Thus, it is not difficult to hear sentences of the type:
“Blessed Father, we thank Thee, O eternal God, that by Thy mercy, Holy God, and Thy goodness, merciful Lord, we may stand, Divine Christ, in Thy presence, O God of Glory, that, blessed Lord, we may enjoy, eternal King, Thy joy.”.
Some people do it because they really feel it, and they are overwhelmed by the presence and greatness of God.
But others do so simply out of habit. Or, worse, for dressing up their prayers and appearing more spiritual.
This is what Jesus refers to in Matthew 6:5-15, when in the teaching on prayer he admonishes them saying: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words (v. 7)”.
Do you do what I say?
The fact is that, in our daily lives, our mouths are full of calling Jesus “Lord, Lord” and yet there are few things in our lives that demonstrate that God is really Lord of them.
We read God’s Word, we see things that impact us, but a few minutes later we are arguing with our spouse. We hear a preaching that moves us, but before the end of the service we already have in our mind the list of people who could have benefited from “hearing this”. We receive an admonition from God and we listen to it attentively, although later it is easy for us, like the Athenians with the Apostle Paul, to think: “I must meditate on this another day”.
Calling Jesus, God, “Lord” is not an act of magic. It does not act as an incantation. As Jesus himself reminds us: “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” (Mateo 7:21).
Calling Jesus “Lord” will not get you out of any difficulty, nor will it make your prayers more effective.
Do you remember the Lord’s Prayer? It is so called because it begins with this word, and it is curious that this is the only noun that makes direct reference to God. There are no “vain repetitions”. There is no flattery towards God, nor is there pompous or exaggerated language. Simply humility, recognition of God’s power and trust in Him. Or is it that you think you need to flatter God in order for Him to listen to you?
It is not the flatterer that God listens tobut rather, as the Psalmist reminds us: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). And he adds: ” My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
However, since it is easier to simulate the external, many Christians stay at that level. It is enough to control our vocabulary, our appearance and our behavior when we are in church, and we think that everything is solved with that.
It is the Protestant version of that other Catholic expression: “that can be fixed with an Our Father and two Hail Marys.”.
But the truth is that no, it is not fixed.
Because those who limit themselves to doing that are exposed to the risk that their whole set-up will collapse at the first test. Simply because he has not deepened his faith; he has not placed his trust in God, but in false rites. And, above all, he has not made Christ the true Lord of his life.
On the contrary, he who makes the effort, who decides to walk in God’s way, who decides to enthrone God as Lord of his life, will be prepared to endure the trials and serve as a refuge for others.
And for this it is enough for us to put into practice the teaching of Jesus. Because as He Himself reminds us “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14).
And what does Jesus command us?
Contrary to legal or religious codes, which are cumbersome and limiting, the commandments of Jesus are simple and aimed at our good and our freedom:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34).
And why do these two commandments summarize the law for the Christian?
For he who is filled with God’s love strives not to sin against God or other people, seeks God’s help to live a life worthy of the fact that he is a son or daughter of God, hating evil and longing to know more of God and to know God more.
For he who is filled with the love of God strives so that others may enjoy that same love. That they may escape the clutches of death and judgment. And to do so, he will not hesitate to show that love and peace to others, despite the personal cost it may entail.
And because being a Christian does not mean presuming to be something you are not. To be a Christian means to let yourself be molded in the image of Christ and to live as He would.
Impossible? Yes, if it were not for the presence of the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness. With him, God makes us more than conquerors. If we are willing to obey God, to go deeper looking for that solid foundation.
But it is worth the effort. For the reward is eternal life, for us and for all those we can reach with our lives.
After all, the sign that we are Christians is not that we say “Amen” or “Lord” or “Alleluia” every now and then. The sign, as Jesus himself taught us, is another: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Cover image byr Luc Constantin on Unsplash
En el Valle de Sombra de Muerte
A lo largo de nuestras vidas, todos vamos a pasar por valles de oscuridad y dolor.
Pero la Palabra de Dios da ánimo, y nos muestra cómo seguir adelante en dichos momentos, y vencer.