To be perfectly honest, the question that I really want answered is, “What are the minimum requirements for avoiding hell?” so as to avoid getting the following error message at the end of my life:
Check it out:
“Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)
Apparently, the rich young ruler has some sense of Jesus’ authority, but he, and often I, completely misunderstand what Jesus is like. Somewhere deep down, I doubt that God is truly good. Jesus first responds by providing a subtle hint that He has a lot more authority than a “good teacher,” and then more directly reminds the rich young ruler that God is the source of all good. Next, he proceeds to create a disorienting dilemma for the rich young ruler by telling him what he needs to do in order to be “perfect” or “complete”—which, of course, is impossible for any human. It’s interesting to note that Jesus never directly answers his question about the requirements for obtaining “eternal life,” but says if he keeps the commandments he will enter into “life.” I suspect that the nature of the rich young ruler’s original question doesn’t align with God’s nature (“What…shall I do…(to) obtain eternal life?”), even though many of us have the exact same approach.
What does seem to be perfectly aligned with everything in God’s nature, though, is him connecting with us in a personal way. Jesus makes a very personal appeal to the rich young ruler inviting him to join his eclectic gang. It is not a guilt-induced threat, “Follow me or else …”, but rather an invitation to experience real life, the way that it was intended to be experienced. It was an invitation to connect relationally; to know and be known. Obviously, the value placed on earthly treasure was an issue for this man, but I wonder if there isn’t an even larger issue at play for the rich young ruler — and me: the issue of responding to Jesus’ invitation to connect in a deeply personal way.
You see, “doing life” with Jesus on a daily basis requires vulnerability. When I join his gang and choose to relationally connect with him, it means that I am willing to open a dialog with him about my personal thoughts and inner life. For many of us, this idea makes us want to breathe in a bag. It requires us to put our heart in his hand, which is an extremely vulnerable position, putting to the test our willingness to actively trust him. Is he really good? Is he really trust worthy? Will this active trust in God’s goodness result in pain as it has with every other human relationship?
Knowing God and being known by him is not necessarily pain-free, however, he is the only person I have found that brings a lasting healing, freedom, peace, and joy. He is good, trustworthy, and loving. Always.