As an Associate Chaplain at a hospital, I have sat with many people during times of stress and crisis. I have listened to many cries for help; many cries of desperation. A loved one’s life is hanging in the balance and the distraught relative intones over and over again, O God, O God, O God. A family is given bad news and they respond in anger. “Where is God when we need Him?” Because God created us with an innate desire to be in relationship with Him, when we are at our lowest and all of our human resources are depleted, something within us cries for God. It may be a cry for help or a cry of anger, but it is almost universally there.
I have encountered many people who live their lives independent of a relationship with God. As long as everything is going well, they have no place for God in their lives. The name of God, if it is used at all, is used as a mindless form of profanity. Then the bottom drops out and they blame God for abandoning them. For them, God is not a friend and companion, but a benevolent stranger who is supposed to be there for them when they need him. He is the spiritual rescue squad who is supposed to be on call, ready to respond to their emergency.
The Bible makes it clear that we have a choice in the way we live our lives. We can live in relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, or we can live without God being an active part of our lives. It is wrong to say that God is absent, because he is always, everywhere present. But we can live as if he does not exist, or at least as if he has no place in our everyday lives. There will come a time when every human being will stand before God and give an account of their life. It will either be a time of terror or a time of welcome home. The determining factor will be if Jesus was our friend or a stranger.
There is a challenging passage of scripture found in Matthew 25. Jesus describes that time when all of humanity will stand before Jesus’ throne. The people of the world will be divided into two groups; one on His right and one on His left. Jesus will turn to the people on his right and extend a hand of welcome. “Welcome home friend. I have been looking forward to this day. You have lived life well, you have served with honor, so now come and celebrate with me.”
Then Jesus will turn to those on his left and he will say the most chilling thing that any human can hear. “You lived your life as a stranger to me. You had no thought of me and lived as if I did not exist. Depart from me. I never knew you.”
Right now the door is open to anyone who will come to Jesus. The invitation to be Jesus’ intimate friend is there for the taking. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20 Jesus desires to have a meaningful relationship with us, but he will not barge his way into our lives. He is the ultimate gentleman. He patiently waits for us to open the door and invite Him in.
Today I will perform a funeral. It is a solemn reminder that our life on earth is short. One day the clock will run out for us all. When that time comes, will Jesus be standing there welcoming us home as a dearly loved friend, or will He still be a stranger?