7/7/12 Ben, about 40
Today I think I met a modern day "rich young ruler" similar to the one whom Jesus spoke with in Mark 10. On an early morning bike ride through Chicago's streets, I stopped at a park in a wealthy neighborhood and began a conversation with Ben, a business-type who was there shooting baskets. He told me he is confident that there is a heaven and even more confident that he is going there, rating himself very close to the top compared to other people when it comes to personal goodness. So confident, in fact, that he felt no need to discuss the issue, but this question got his attention: "If you were on the wrong path, headed in the wrong direction, it would be best to find out as soon as possible so you can turn around and get on the correct path, right?" He agreed. "So how much more important would it be to get on the right path in regards to eternity?" I went on to tell him "Our society is turning to relative morality, which says that our level of goodness depends on how we compare to others around us, but the Bible teaches that God's standards are absolute, comparing our behavior to His laws such as the Ten Commandments". Ben believes in keeping an open mind, so he had to agree that there is a possibility that he may be wrong about how good he actually is compared to God's standard, and confidently agreed to take a "good person test" based on the Ten Commandments, much like the questions Jesus gave the rich young ruler. But when I gave the first few questions about lying, stealing, and blasphemy, Ben either gave elaborate excuses or denied breaking these commandments, just as the rich young man did. I think Jesus knew the rich young man wasn't as good as he claimed, but He ignored this and went on to other questions because He didn't want the focus to be on a legalistic attitude about the law, but the spirit behind it. Instead of arguing, the account reads that "Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'One thing you lack,' he said. 'Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' " (vs. 21) Jesus went right to the heart of the young man's selfish rebellion against God - his wealth. I didn't have this kind of insight with Ben, but I wanted him to see himself in the mirror of God's law just the same without being distracted by needing to defend himself What to do? Ben continued to deny any guilt, so I decided to turn the focus on myself. I told him how I would be found guilty of breaking various commandments, mentioning them one by one, and how my goodness couldn't save me. I would want mercy, not justice, on judgment day, but God, being a God of both mercy and justice, provides both in Jesus. The "rich young ruler" went away sad from his encounter with Jesus. Ben listened politely, but soon just wanted to get back to shooting baskets.