I shook his hand. He was a follower of Christ and in a Church position of leadership. But he also didn’t like me. He had told me on a previous occasion I wasn’t reading the correct original Bible. I tried to explain we don’t have the original but it fell on deaf ears. He told me that churches were singing the wrong songs I said I don’t think God minds what tune or words are used so long as it is worship. He told me there wasn’t enough evangelism taking place and I asked him how much he was doing. I shook his hand after a meeting he and I had attended. He gave me a cold stare with a limp handshake. It didn’t feel like we were on the same team. He seemed hardened and distanced from any joy, love or grace. We were Christian brothers but I wondered if we were of the same family! That’s a little of how Paul felt regarding his brothers.
Paul summarises regarding his ‘Israel’ who haven’t responded. They don’t understand grace because they are wrapped up in Law. They cannot accept salvation because they are working out their performance in order to be acceptable to God. Paul says, “ What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.”(quoting Deuteronomy 29:4 and Isaiah 29:10) And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” (Romans 11 v 7-10)
Just because there is seeking taking place doesn’t mean there is finding. Seeking by your own efforts and religious fervour does not guarantee you find God. Leave grace out of the picture and there is no finding of relationship with God.
It seems possible that you can be so caught up in being chosen by God that you respond in ways that ruin that choosing.
Reflecting on my handshake I wonder what happened to this man that hardened his heart so. Why is he so judgmental on others? Why is he so right and others wrong? Where is grace? Where is God? Does this just creep up on you after years of religious trying-to-please God by efforts? Do you eventually become blinded to what God sees and what He wants to show you and deaf to what God hears and what He wants to say? Has your works-orientated religious approach to life brought about your own spiritual deadness to grace? Is this your living judgment? Do you end your days disappointed in others, angry, hurt and brooding over the behaviour of the Church?
Who wants to shake hands with such a person?