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Dr. Keith Wagner
In the past few weeks the world has witnessed an earthquake in China, a cyclone in Myramar, and tornadoes in the Midwest. Mother nature didn’t discriminate. There were expensive homes that were destroyed as well as many modest dwellings. What about those who lost their homes? Some would say It’s because they weren’t religious. Had they built their home on a solid foundation they would have been spared.
For people to make such statements is utterly preposterous. In fact, it was “religious” people like that to whom Jesus was speaking here in Matthew. He said to the religious folk who went around boasting of their ability to prophesy and cast out demons, “I never knew you.”
A wise person builds his home on solid ground while a foolish person builds their home on sand. What did he mean? Jesus wasn’t talking about personal dwelling places nor was he talking about extreme weather conditions. He was talking about life, specifically how one enters the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus was addressing his disciples and potential disciples. Some were listening and heeding his teachings but others were hesitant, reluctant or holding back. To be a follower of Jesus is not just to go through the motions.
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In today’s world there are folks who just pretend to be living on the rock. They follow the rules, they are moral and good citizens and they say the right words. But, their faith is superficial. I doubt if they can hear this teaching since they believe it applies to someone other than themselves. On the other hand there are some who are still learning, those who want to build their lives on a solid foundation but don’t know how.
Jesus’ words amazed his disciples. They were shocked. Why? Because he told them things about the Pharisees that they didn’t expect to hear. Everyone looked to the Pharisees as models of the faith because of their righteous living. But their lives were legalistic, following a prescribed pattern of rules and ritual. “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said.
Some folks are awed by religious people, like the Pharisees, who appear to be very religious. Jesus is saying, “Don’t be. Forget them. They mislead you.” They have built their lives on the sand. They will not be able to survive the storms of life. You, on the other hand, can. Build your life on the rock and you can be assured that the kingdom of heaven waits for you.
I believe that to build our lives on solid ground is to do the following. First, it’s to be committed. Commitment to the faith requires sacrifice. It means it is not all about one’s self, it is all about others.
I was vacationing in Maryland last week. In Maryland there are thousands of people who commute to Washington D.C. every day. Some commute over two hours away. I noticed that there were a number of “Park and Ride” areas. Folks drive to a central location, park their car and then ride a bus to work for the remainder of their commute. Here in the Midwest we are used to driving to work solo. Ride sharing is scarce and we have no mass transit systems. Think of the resources that could be saved if we shared what we have. Or, who of us has ever thought about filling our neighbor’s gasoline can to make their life a bit easier?
Secondly, I believe that Jesus intended those who build their lives on the rock was to live by a true love ethic. Love is grace, not following rules. Love is giving, expecting nothing in return. Love is, “Laying down one’s life for his/her friends.” Love is non-judgment. Love is total acceptance. Love is striving for peace.
Finally, to live our lives on the rock is to believe that anything is possible. “With faith, anything is possible,” Jesus said. Too often we feel as though our efforts go unnoticed so we don’t even try. Or, we sense that a wrong can’t be righted or a problem can’t be solved and we become overwhelmed.
I was sailing last week with some very good friends. Our boat captain this year is the most experienced of all of us. We were heading out to the Chesapeake Bay from a channel that was narrow and shallow. The wind was strong and the seas were choppy. We drifted to the left and our sailboat went aground. My friend panicked, which is unusual for him. We backed off and he decided that we better go back in. We motored back to the dock and sat there. Now we were in a marina where hundreds of boats, many larger than ours, were docked. I thought to myself, “These boats navigate this channel every day. Surely, it is not impossible for us.”
I said to my friend who was overwhelmed with the situation that I had every confidence in his ability to take us out of the channel. I also suggested that he might stay to the right to avoid drift. Drift was something I was familiar with having been in the Navy. After a 30 minute waiting period we headed out again and this time we safely navigated our way through the channel.
There have been times when I too have needed a voice of reassurance to navigate my own life through some problem or circumstance. There are voices who reassure us but we don’t always listen. To build our lives on solid ground takes courage and faith. Nothing is impossible. By being committed and living by the ethic of love, we too will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Copyright 2008, Keith Wagner. Used by permission.