For heaven’s sake, take the call

For months a company called A.R.M. has been calling our home phone. When we see their name on caller I.D., we let it ring. We’re fed up with calls from survey-takers, fund-raisers and political haymakers.

But A.R.M. is in a class by themselves. They call several times a week, at all hours of the day (often at mealtimes). They have called before breakfast and they’ve called after 10:00 at night. This morning the phone rang at 8:10, and I decided I’d had enough of A.R.M., so I answered.

It was of course an automated message. The computerized voice told me that A.R.M. was a debt collection agency, and then asked me if I was Scott H. If I was Scott H., I was supposed to press 1; if I was not Scott H., I was supposed to press 2. I pressed 2.

Then when the message repeated itself, I pressed 2 again. And again and again, until I finally got a contact number for their accounts receivable department, which I promptly called. When a kind woman with a southern accent answered, I explained to her that I was not Scott H., didn’t know Scott H., and that Scott H. had never lived here. I asked her to remove my number from their calling list, which she promised to do.

Had I answered when A.R.M. first started calling, I could have put an end to this perpetual wrong number. But I never wanted to take the time to deal with it. So for months we put up with repeated interruptions during meals and even at bedtime.

The thing is, I had no idea who A.R.M was. What if, instead of being a debt collection agency, they were a law firm hired by the estate of some fabulously wealthy, long-lost uncle who wanted to bestow his millions on me? What if they were a small business in California, whose owner had read my column and was trying to reach me to ask about how to start a relationship with God, but couldn’t do so because I ignored his calls?

I think something like that happens to many of us, only in this case the caller is God himself. He is, according to the Bible, a calling God. He calls people “to belong to Jesus Christ,” calls them into fellowship, calls them “into his kingdom and glory.” The biblical writer Jude even describes God’s people as “those who have been called.”

God is even more persistent than A.R.M. He calls over and over, reaches out to people “day after day, again and again” (Jeremiah 7:25). Indeed, “many are called.”

This morning the phone company has been working next door, and as I write this, my phone and internet are out of order. People may – and I could almost guarantee that they are – calling my house and sending me emails. But I don’t know who is calling and writing, and I don’t know what they are trying to communicate. Their message might even be one of life or death, but I am oblivious to it.

Likewise, individuals who were once able to answer God’s call but didn’t – as I was able to answer A.R.M.’s calls for months, but didn’t – may come to a day when they are no longer able to answer. It’s not necessarily because God has stopped calling but because their ability to receive his calls is no longer in working order.

In a similar way, God may be calling individuals who have lost the ability to receive his calls. The person who ignores God’s call intentionally will ultimately ignore his calls unintentionally. And then the day will come when that person can no longer take his call, even if he or she wants to.

This provides a background to the Bible’s urgent appeal: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” The biblical writers are saying, in effect, “When God is the one calling, for heaven’s sake, take the call!”

First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 9/20/2014

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