I was saved by Christ when I was 22. I did not grow up in a Christian home. We were “Catholic,” attending church on holidays, but once I had reached First Communion, I was allowed to quit the classes. So it goes without saying that I didn’t have a lot of friends and family who were Christians, even into my young adulthood. Since then, I often think of my family members and some of my very best friends and imagine them in hell and it terrifies me.
.As I’ve studied God’s Word, however, I’m so encouraged because of Jesus. Jesus saves. There is no one beyond the reach of God’s plan for salvation.
Jesus died for the salvation of all, but sometimes, I know it gets difficult to remember that all CAN be saved.
That indifferent family member who doesn’t think they need God, the friend addicted to drugs, and even that lady from church who wholeheartedly believes heaven is promised just because she show up on time every Sunday for the early service – they can all be saved. Jesus met with these types of people during his earthly ministry and extended to them salvation:
1) The wayward. In Luke in chapter 7:36-50, Jesus was dining with a Pharisee named Simon. Mary, a prostitute who was widely seen as unclean to even enter into conversation with, came into the house and approached Jesus. She anointed his feet with the perfume, and as she wept at His feet in worship, she washed his feet with her hair and her tears. Simon was probably quite put off by this display; after all, if Jesus was a prophet, He would know this woman was a prostitute and would surely not allow her to touch his feet. He thought this, and Jesus responded out loud to Simon’s thought in true and typical Jesus fashion with a parable about two debtors who were forgiven by the moneylender in differing amounts. He asked who would love the lender more: the person who owed more and was forgiven or the person who owed less and was forgiven. I’m sure Simon felt a little backed into the corner at that point because he answers correctly that it would be the person who owed more, but he did so cautiously.
Mary was a wayward woman, she was an outcast in society, likely abused in so many ways, used and consumed over and over again, and yet, Jesus clearly forgave all of her transgressions and accepted her offering because it was genuine. She was broken by the world, but when she came to Jesus, she was not rejected. She was loved, she was accepted, she was forgiven. He reached into her heart and made her whole.
2) The uninterested. In Acts 9, we can read about Saul’s conversion. Saul was on his way to Damascus with papers in hand that would lead to the imprisonment and death of Christians when a bright light shone down from the sky, blinding Saul and knocked him to the ground. Jesus confronted him about his persecution and told him to continue to Damascus where he would be told what to do. Once there, three days later and still blind, Saul met Ananias, a disciple of Jesus, whose heart was already prepared to lay hands on the blinded man and restore his sight in the name of Jesus. After this experience, Saul was baptized into the faith, changed his name to Paul, and became arguably the greatest missionary in the history of Christianity. He would go on to write a majority of the New Testament.
A man imprisoning and killing Christians would eventually become imprisoned and martyred for the faith himself. I imagine though, prior to his conversion that Saul was not interested at all in hearing more of the gospel and what Jesus did for him. He would not be a very receptive person to witness to, I think. This is pretty obvious, because even Ananias was being told in a vision to go to him and was hesitant to do so. But even so, Jesus came down to confront Saul, and meet him right where he was: completely oblivious to the grace of God, if not even a little antagonistic toward the idea of it.
3) The religious. Most of us are likely familiar with the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32 (and might be surprised that I did not opt for that as my example of Jesus accepting the wayward). The younger son takes off with his inheritance and blows it all on women and partying, right? He winds up in a pig sty and decides to cast his pride aside and go home to his dad, who unexpectedly accepts his wayward son with open arms. The father is so elated at the return of his son that he throws a massive party in honor of the reconciliation and restores him to his former position. But the older brother, who stayed and worked hard for his father is not so happy about this. He was faithful and did all that he was supposed to do, following all the rules, and dad is throwing a party for this irresponsible punk who barely made it home? The father comes to the older brother and invites him in to celebrate and explains that both sons are welcome to all that he has, simply because they’re his sons.
The reason this is Jesus meeting the religious though, is because He’s sharing this parable with a crowd of people, but the Pharisees are listening too. He doesn’t tell us what the older brother decides to do, I think, because He’s inviting the Pharisees in the crowd before Him to come join the party. He’s saying that they’re still the sons of God and that the invitation and inheritance is just as much for them as it is for the prodigal son.
I find it interesting to note that we still don’t know what was decided by the older brother because most of us can feel like the older brother sometimes about the first two types of people when they’re saved. We should be with our father rejoicing their return, but sometimes we can become frustrated that no parties are thrown for us because we’ve been here all along. Personally, I have a hard time identifying completely because a party was once thrown in my honor by my God in heaven and the angels all rejoiced that I returned from the spiritually dead, but I imagine this is really tempting for those who may have grown up knowing God to fall into from time to time, especially when they know people like Saul, who’ve made fun of us and persecuted us finally turn their hearts toward God…
If you’re praying for the wayward, the indifferent, or the religious, know that you’re not alone and be encouraged; keep praying. I’m praying with you, as well. But the point is the same in all cases: none are beyond His reach. Whether we need saving from sex, drugs, complacency, or Sunday School – HE SAVES.