“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Jesus in Matthew 7:21-23)Every time I read this passage before last week, I focused in on the fact that faith is more than believing facts. That many will say they believe all the right things but will learn that their actions showed they didn't really know God. But I missed a really key phrase, and it was pointed out to me as I was reading last week. The phrase is this: "I never knew you."
Not "you never knew me" (the way I had always read it), but "I never knew you." Why not? I now think it's pretty obvious: because of the masks that we wear.
You see, Jesus had just spent a big part of the famous Sermon on the Mount talking about religious leaders who would pray for show, fast for show, and give for show. Nothing about them was real. They put on this big pretense for the benefit of those around them, but they were play-actors, wearing masks to hide their true selves. The word for play-actors was "hypocrite" and it was a word Jesus used often. So when he says at the end, "I never knew you" it will be for a very simple reason: how could he? They were never being themselves.
So what about me? Do I give Christ a chance to see the real me? Or do I go to church pretending to have it all together? Churches are full of broken, hurting people who desperately need the healing message of God's love and grace. But how can we receive it if we don't ever let on that we need it? No wonder Jesus will say to many religious people, "I never knew you."
Here is one of my favorite songs by Casting Crowns with the lyrics embedded on the screen, and it is right on point:
The invitation is open to every heart that's been broken. That's why he came. I don't want to be a fake, putting up walls around my weakness and saying, "Lord, Lord." I want to be real so he can offfer me his grace.
"Well done, good and faithful servant" sounds a heck of alot better than "I never knew you."