I realize that this initial model does not work in every situation. But many church sanctuaries are set up in two columns of seats with an aisle in the middle. Looking from the front, one notices that people for some reason gravitate to the one side or the other - eventually this becomes a habit that is sometimes difficult to overcome.
Naturally, this scene takes our minds to Matthew 25 - but we will not go that way - instead I want to comment on a serious issue that impressed me as I was reading through the First Epistle of Paul to Timothy and chapter one, and what seemed to me, a very important contrast. Here's the passage:
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,
2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,
7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers
10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,
11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted (1 Timothy 1:1-11).
When you read this final paragraph, you can't help but be struck with an amazing contrast. In his letter to the Romans, Paul says that the Law was given because of transgression. The Law was given to man in written form so that man could see his condition from the perspective of the Creator. Were it not for biblical passages like the above verses 8 11, we would look at the people who fit into one or more of those categories, and not even realize how pathetic is their state (or maybe our own).
So, yes, from God's perspective, humanity is sitting on the one side or the other - and God does not permit anyone to bring their own chair and sit in the middle. God deplores the "middle."
The pulpit is given to make people aware of this very fact, and challenge then make their choice as to where they want to be.
Paul places the list of the degradable qualities in verses 9 10 on the one side of the aisle, and then, simply the phrase "the glorious gospel of the blessed God" on the other side which makes a man aware of the difference between the holy and the profane.
Can you see the change that takes place when the principles and the precepts of the glorious gospel of God are accepted and permitted to work in one's life? The Apostle Paul saw it this way: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Many people are struggling to bring about changes in their life. Frustration and a sense of futility sets in quickly when one realizes that change is just not happening. The only thing that will effectuate a change that will be significant and permanent is the grace of God provided in Jesus Christ. This change will not only make one a better person, but it will gain acceptance with God.
On which side of the aisle do you want to be?
If you are looking for a change for your life, begin by looking into the "glorious gospel of the blessed God" - therein lies your path to change. Talk to a God-serving Pastor, or any born-again believer, and they will come alongside of you in this amazing and transforming adventure.
My prayer is that soon you will be singing the words of Rufus H. McDaniel when he wrote, "What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought since Jesus came into my heart."
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)