Do The Right Thing

A friend helped fight the Okanagan Mountain Park forest fire back in 2003. It was a difficult fire to contain and threatened a number of homes on the outskirts of Kelowna. My friend was conveniently enrolled at university in Kelowna, so little travel time was needed at the end of the summer to get him from the fire to school. Which was doubly a boon, as he was kept on the fire until the day before classes started.

But rolling onto campus the first day of classes had left him little time to prepare; he hadn’t signed up for any classes yet. So he went online and got wait listed for half of his classes, all required for his programme. So he booked a meeting with an admissions counselor.

She quietly scanned his recorded and turned a grave eye upon him. “It says here that you just signed up for these classes this morning. I’m afraid there is not much I can do if you are going to leave things so late.”

He explained that he had been unable to register earlier because he had been working out in the bush all summer.

“And you couldn’t drop something in the mail I suppose?”

“I was a bit busy fighting forest fires.”

“Wait, what? What fire were you on?”

“The Okanagan Mountain fire.”

“Hang on. Let me see what I can do.”

As it turns out, the counselor’s own home had nearly been burned down and only the exhaustive effort by the firefighters had saved her subdivision. She was grateful. And my friend was in all his classes by the next day.

You can check all your own boxes, cover all the bases you think necessary, but sometimes you need to do exactly what someone else wants in order to change your relationship.

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

Jesus here lists a number of splendid and miraculous acts that people will undertake in His name yet He says, this will not result in Him knowing them nor accepting them. Yes, you can heal the sick, but can you love your mother-in-law? Yes, people can receive their sight in Jesus’ name, but how often do you speak His name in private?

There is a kind of acting for God that can leave us quite bereft of obedience. There is a kind of talking about God (what Eugene Petersen terms ‘godtalk’) that leaves us no closer to knowing God Himself.

So we are warned: Do His will. Don’t go about doing your will in His name. It’s not the same. And it will likely take a lifetime for most of us to develop the discernment to distinguish the two. There is the obvious layer of obeying His commands, but the deeper layer of why we do what we do takes considerably more time.

And as we will see toward the end of this gospel, the basis of our relationship is pre-paid.

Lord, search me and know me. See if there is any wayward part within me.

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