And so ends the cautionary tale of King Saul, killed in battle with the Philistines. He lost his sons including Jonathan, he lost his army, and finally he lost the battle. But in the end, to finish off the godlessness of King Saul, he is not killed in battle but kills himself. While this seems honorable, in Jewish society suicide was considered a breaking of the 6th commandment since it was considered murder of oneself.
This story, about a king chosen and anointed by God but abandoned due to his sinfulness, is a nervous-making one for us. If we sin against God, will He abandon us, too? How will we know if we’ve lost God’s blessing, His anointing for ministry? And what sins or number of sins are required before God leaves us? This very question exposes our ignorance of sin. We in our Western, individualistic, guilt-innocence based culture keep thinking of sin as something we do. “I committed a sin,” is our default thought, “and so I am sinful.” But the bible makes it clear that we aren’t sinful because we sin, but we sin because we are sinful. We live in a state of rebellion against God, of self-centeredness rather than God-centeredness. And because of this sinfulness, we sin.
The Good News is that Jesus died to pay for our sinfulness. That state of things is gone for we who are In Christ. We still sin, but are not in a state of rebellion against God. Things have changed with the cross.
Now, before we take too deep a breath of relief, we have to remember Jesus’ words in our New Testament reading, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door.” The relationship Jesus wants with us, a saving relationship, is not a matter of attendance at church, or number of people we’ve served in this world, or amount of money we’ve given away. Like every relationship it is based on time spent together, common interests, and mutual love and respect. For those who don’t truly love God, (“No greater love has anyone than this, that they lay down their life for their friend”) that door is narrow indeed.