In the Gospel of Luke (13:22-30), Jesus is asked the question, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”
After a long explanation, Jesus answers, “For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” In our American, egalitarian mindset, the thought that some might be left out seems elitist or unfair. “Why would God exclude anyone from His Kingdom?” is a question that some would ask.
However, that question needs to be framed differently. You see, God does not exclude, we do. God is not in the heavens saying, “Person A is in; person B is out.” Rather, it is the person himself or herself that says, “I don’t want to be in God’s Kingdom.” Perhaps an analogy would help. When I was in school, Sr. Medard used to tell us, “I don’t give you a grade; you give it to yourselves. I merely write the grade in my gradebook.” In many senses, that is how God works. God doesn’t discriminate against His creation. All are welcome. However, some may choose, by their behavior, to separate themselves from God. Even so, God still holds out that hand of friendship and love and reconciliation until the point of our death. We have an entire lifetime to make choices which solidify our decision to be a part of God’s Kingdom. On the other hand, we also have a lifetime to show God that we do not want to have anything to do with Him.
Those of you who are parents know this well. For some of you, your children still associate with you and you have a good relationship with them. For others of you, your children have become estranged through no fault of your own. You have reached out to them, but they refuse to be a part of your life. Do you stop loving them? Do you refuse to reconcile with them if they come back? Do you retaliate and deliberately try to hurt them? Not only do parents experience this, sometimes a similar scenario occurs between friends or business partners.
Yet there is a secondary aspect in the Gospel message: Don’t be presumptuous. Jesus reminds us that we should never presume that just because we go to Church on Sunday or do works of charity on occasion that we will be counted among the saints. On the contrary, following the Gospel means entering through the narrow gate; it means we need to take risks and rise to the challenge of being a disciple. To be a Christian entails making a commitment—a deliberate decision to follow Christ. And this decision must occur on a conscious level everyday if not every moment of every day. To avoid the sin of presumption, we must participate in the salvation that Christ has won for us. It is not enough that Christ died on the cross; our faith dictates that we must demonstrate our belief as well. In other words, faith is an action. It must be dynamic and living, not a static museum piece that we point to as “evidence” of our Christianity.
Will only a few people be saved? I don’t know. That is not for me to decide. However, I, like all of you, need to make a decision to follow Jesus and to live my faith each and every day.