The Great Gulf

If you ask me, it is one of the most disturbing stories Jesus ever told.  (You find it in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 16:19-31.)

It tells of a rich man who, during his earthly life, was greedy and unhelpful to a poor man named Lazarus who simply wanted a few crumbs from the rich man’s sumptuous table.  It tells of the horrible suffering that Lazarus endured during his earthly life – such as the way the “dogs came and licked the sores” with which the poor man was afflicted.

Fast forward to the afterlife.

Lazarus is in paradise – carried by the angels themselves to “Abraham’s bosom.”

The rich man – well, you can imagine where he ended up – in the torments of hell.

Jesus tells of how the rich man begged to “Father Abraham,” so that he might be relieved of his torment but the great gulf was not to be breached.  So, the rich man asks that at least his brothers – still living – be warned to live differently than he did.  Abraham only answers, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.”  The rich man insists, “Nay, Father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.”

The answer is grim: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”

We can easily hear the portent of how some still miss the truth – even if the Lord “rose from the dead.”

Sad, honest, brutal truth.  Sometimes, even the Gospels don’t pull any punches and we are left to decide what do do in light of that.

It makes me uncomfortable.  I much prefer the “old, old story about a Savior that came from glory.”  Don’t you?

But – sometimes – we must face the truth.  There are consequences to insisting on a life that is self-centered, self-absorbed, self-satisfying.  Just as there are blessed consequences to living a life that seeks a loving, saving God.

The choice is there, stark as it is.

Good food for thought during the season of Lent….or anytime.

By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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