You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
There were tears in her eyes as she talked about her daughter. It was a conversation I have had more than once with elderly members of my parish. Their children had walked away from the faith and attended no church. They proclaimed their liberation from the rule of Christ, but most often this meant an enslavement to something else, if not an addiction, perhaps they lived under the tyranny of money, work, or most often their own selfish desires.
This daughter lived in another state, was married, and had children, but no one went to church. Her mother was afraid for her daughter’s eternal life. She should be. Verse 12 of this reading from II Timothy 2 is stark. If we deny Jesus, He will deny us. I think of that Gospel reading we had several weeks ago in which Jesus said that many will come knocking on the heavenly feast at that last day, but the master of the feast will say, “I do not know you.” I do not want that for anyone, most especially for the people whom I love.
But I did not need to tell her that. She knew that already. We focused instead on verse 13. If we are faithless, Jesus is faithful. He cannot deny himself. There have been many times when I have forgotten my confirmation vows and His baptismal promises, but He has never forgotten His promises to me, not for one moment. There had been a day, some years ago, when this woman and her husband had brought her new baby girl to a font, and she had been baptized. Jesus made a promise that day. He has never forgotten it. He has never stopped caring about her and to this day is reaching toward her in love and grace. The nature of that love and grace are such that she can refuse. He will not force, but he will never stop looking for her and calling her home.
That Jesus made that promise to you too. He made it to all who have been washed in a font. The elderly man with dementia who cannot remember your name is in His hands. He may have forgotten Jesus, but Jesus never forgot him. The same is true of the child who has run away, the friend with mental illness, or anyone else for whom you pray, all of them. We care for them and love them, yet we are but instruments of God’s care. His love and grace save them and He has many ways to care.