The second problem with relying on keeping commandments for salvation is that it becomes exclusive. God’s desire for every single person on earth to be saved gets replaced by a prize for the elite few who manage to resist every temptation.

In Luke 7, we find a good example of the line of exclusivity that legalistic faith creates. Only people who kept God’s commandments were welcome in the Pharisee’s house for dinner (v. 39). And allowing a sinful person to come too close would ruin a hard-earned clean record.

Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter again. He knows that exclusivity causes people to be blind to their own shortcomings. It is easy to forget that you need forgiveness when you and everybody around you are doing everything right. In his quest to protect his squeaky-clean environment, the Pharisee was not even aware of the basic rules that he let slip himself. “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet” (Luke 7:44-45, NLT).

The best way to prevent the trap of exclusivity is by understanding that we all have the same inability to keep God’s commandments. It may present itself differently in each person, but the failure to earn salvation by keeping the Law is the same for everybody. The moment we try to remove ourselves from the rest of humankind, we also move further away from Christ. Reverend Hugh L. Hollowell says it like this: “Every time we use religion to draw a line that keeps people out, Jesus is with the people on the other side of that line.”

Do you prefer the company of people who live by the rules? Do you choose your friends based on their Christian performance? Is it possible that you have created an exclusive circle where Jesus’ friends are not welcome?

Let us open our hearts to our fellow sinners here on earth. Let us never forget our need for forgiveness and salvation through Christ’s grace alone. “‘I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent’” (Luke 5:32, NLT).

Scripture readings:

Luke 7:36-50

Luke 5:27-32