“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”
Talking about obedience without the actual obeying is of little worth to Jesus. His half-brother James warns us preachers rightly: “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” There is a danger in letting your mouth run on; if you are not careful, it will start making promises not reflected by your life.
In fact, Jesus goes further to highlight that even in the case of someone who proclaims their disobedience but then repents of it, the obedience is the weightier matter. Words are just window dressing. They can highlight the interior, but they can also conceal it. They are at best, non-essential.
So don’t worry about your PR. God is not swayed by your reputation, for good or for ill.
I just finished Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy. There is a moment of clarity near the beginning; the protagonist is overcome with remorse over the child she has born from a sexual union against her will. But the clarity comes when she realizes that were she trapped on a deserted island with the child, she would be perfectly happy, for her uneasiness is only borne of anticipating the attitudes and prejudices of others. Sadly, the child and his mother meet unhappy ends. But for that moment, you realize just how ephemeral the opinions of others really are.
So whatever your track record is, supposed or real, now is a fantastic time to turn toward God and do what He says. Lots of people kids themselves into complacency. “I’m not really a bad person. I try to do a good turn now and then.” But trying harder than your neighbors is not what is in question here; the question is our relationship to Jesus. Did you hear Him? Did you respond to His voice?
What is He telling you today?
Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.