“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” –Matthew 7:24-27
When a contractor begins the process of building a house, there is a specific order in which he or she accomplishes the task. The first and most important place is, of course, the foundation. Once the foundation is complete, then comes the framing, wiring, plumbing, walls, roof, windows and doors. Not until all the foundational and structural parts of the house are complete can a homeowner begin decorating and putting their own personal touches on the house. The foundation, walls, etc. may be the least attractive part of putting a home together, but they are by far the most important in terms of quality and safety. Without these elements being properly completed, all the decorating in the world will not make it a safe, sturdy structure, no matter how polished it may look on the surface.
Just like a contractor would not start building a home by painting and hanging curtains before they build the foundation, I sometimes think Christians approach non-Christians in the incorrect order. If we start by pointing out others’ sins before they have even had a chance to get to know Jesus’ heart and character, we’re getting it backwards. Sin is important because it separates us from God, and because sin always has a negative consequence. God is a good parent, and a whole lot smarter than we are, so He says no to certain things as a way of protecting us from the fall out of those behaviors. Unfortunately, some in the church focus almost entirely on these behaviors as if they are the key to salvation. God makes it clear that what is most important to Him is our heart, not what is on the outside. Plenty of people have the ten commandments memorized but are not loving, compassionate and giving as Jesus was. What leads a person to truly make choices that please God is knowing Jesus on a very personal level. Building their own relationship with God and getting to know His heart is the foundation of their spiritual house. Without the foundation of that relationship, doing all the “right” things will be just a religious practice and not a result of the changes Jesus has made deep inside of them. Their faith will be hollow, and it’s likely the first time they go through one of life’s storms, that faith will not be able to stand. All the religious, proper behavior in the world will not get us through life’s most challenging seasons. Only having a deeply rooted trust in God and a strong belief in His goodness and faithfulness will help our spiritual house hold up. People who don’t know God today need to build their foundation first. As they get to know Him, He will change their hearts and minds to be more like Jesus’, and their behaviors will fall into place as they grow.
I challenge us this week to be a loving example of God to someone who needs to know His love, faithfulness, goodness and power so they can build their own strong foundation.