I love that there’s no “one size fits all” answer with God. I don’t believe we are instructed to turn the other cheek for everyone nor are we to call everyone a “white washed tomb” as Jesus did to the Pharisees. When I run to God and ask how to love well, sometimes He tells me to say or do something immediately. Other times I’m instructed to just listen and validate feelings. In some circumstances, God tells me it’s best for us both if I love people from a distance in a prayerful way.
A Relational approach to life involves learning how to receive clarity from God about how we best support other people’s learning curve. Many times this looks like stepping back and allowing our loved ones to experience hurt and pain as a result of their own immature decisions and rigid beliefs so they will seek God.
Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler in Luke 18 is a good example of this principle. This ruler had worked hard to follow all the commandments since he was a young boy. The account leads us to believe he was serious about his relationship with God. He had put time, effort, and energy into following the guidelines set out by the religious establishment. But even after being a model pupil, this ruler recognized the religious system could not assure him of God’s acceptance.
The ruler heard about a new teacher named Jesus and sought him out to ask him the burning question of how to achieve eternal life. I find Jesus’ response fascinating. The first thing he did was to challenge the ruler on the issue of Jesus’ credentials. When people are not ready to hear God’s answer to their question, they go shopping. Hearing something they don’t like from one source, people often rationalize and discount the source, then go searching for another opinion. I wonder how many “good teachers” this ruler had approached with this question. Jesus immediately established the fact that only God alone is the “good teacher” and if we ask God a question, we need to be open to hearing and receiving His truthful answers.
Jesus led the ruler to the heart of the matter by exposing his flawed life strategy. The ruler had been taught to keep every single commandment, assuring him he would receive God’s approval. Jesus points out that knowing information and blindly following rules never results in knowing God or others intimately. God’s strategy for our life is based on inner heart attitude rather than outward obedience. Jesus told the ruler to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, then leave home and come travel with him as a disciple. Luke 18:23 says the ruler sadly turned away. Unlike following a straight-forward set of commandments, Jesus’ words necessitates wrestling with heartfelt sacrifice as well as external cost.
Humankind has developed a hierarchy that relies on wealth, rules, status, etc. to bestow worth and value. God tells us,
We set up rules and systems that make it possible for people to build their own Tower of Babel and reach up to God. But we are fooling ourselves because God always talks about heart attitude, intent, motivation, and character -- and those things can never be achieved by simply obeying commandments.
The rich young ruler was saddened that the cost of being with God meant bankrupting himself financially in the present life. The life strategy he was taught caused him to ask Jesus the wrong question. Rather than seeking to know what hoops he needed to jump through to get the prize, he should have been asking how to draw closer to God’s heart. Viewing the world from God’s heart changes our perspective on everything.
I want to believe this ruler eventually sold all he had and went to follow Jesus. I hope this encounter with Jesus caused the ruler to come to the Apostle Peter’s belief that only Jesus has the words of life. Transformation of our humanistic life strategy brings us into the presence of the Almighty God, a gift that trumps all earthly treasures. But maybe all he could see was what he would give up and he learned how to shut off his disappointment so he could continue living by the rules.
I do acknowledge the rich young ruler was apparently living a very good lifestyle, making it easier to focus on the positive. That’s not the case for most of the people coming into my office. They tell me stories of hurt and heartache that has or is presently happening to them or to people they love. Everyone on this planet hopes for a quick solution that will stop pain and head them toward happiness. No matter which position you are in, the Bible is clear that the price of healing is truthfully seeking out all the self-protective ways that separate us from the love of God.
John 8:32 promises that God’s truth will set us free when we commit to a lifestyle of asking hard questions and sitting in painful feelings. Truth is not a scientific conclusion arrived at by examination of data. It cannot be separated from the person of God.
Excerpt: From the Other Side of the Couch by Judy Lair, LPCC