“[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
I remember hearing Fr. Thomas Hopko of blessed memory say, God has saved everyone, but not everyone is working out their salvation. God greatly desires the salvation of every person, and He strategically places things into our lives in order to assist our attaining to that salvation.
That lesson is something I noticed the last time I read the well known parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke’s Gospel. The second verse of the parable states,
But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate. (Luke 16:20).
Why was Lazarus laid at the gate of the rich man? Because God wanted this selfish person to see his neighbor, a fellow Jew, wasting away in hunger in order that the wealthy man would take care of him.
There can be no repentance or salvation without works to prove it. Not that our works save us, but they are the proof that our repentance is sincere. If this rich man was never given a way to repent of his selfishness, then at the Final Judgment he could say, “You are right, God, to condemn me as selfish. But you never gave me a way to change; You never put someone in need in my path to do good works.”
So, “Lazarus…was laid at his gate.” And God watched and waited, and eventually allowed both of them to die. The wealthy man proved during his earthly life that he had no intention to grasp the opportunity of salvation that had been given him. Therefore in Hades he had no excuses.
It makes me ask the question, “Who is at my gate?” While I am not wealthy by American standards, what are the things God has placed in my life so that I may work out my salvation and prove my repentance is sincere?
Has God allowed inconveniences to teach me patience? Has he allowed sickness to teach me compassion? Has he allowed needy people to teach me mercy? Has he allowed others to criticize me to teach me love and forgiveness?
Who are the people and what are the situations that He has laid at the gate of my heart? It would be wise for me to be attentive. Eternity hangs in the balance.
Image credit: http://jashackh.deviantart.com/art/Beggar-137008941