“They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him” (Malachi 3:17,18).
THE PEOPLE OF JUDAH IN MALACHI’S DAY HAD BECOME CYNICAL ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL. They were failing to make the moral judgments God expected them to make. But there was coming a new day — the day of the Messiah — when valid distinctions would be made. “Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”
It is true that making accurate distinctions requires hard work. It also requires humility, cautiousness, openness, and a courageous willingness to have our previous perceptions corrected. But the fact that we may sometimes err and need to be straightened out doesn’t mean we can play it safe by the avoidance of any distinctions at all. It means that we make the best judgments we can — and then improve our judgments as we go along.
Am I in a right relationship with God? What about my loved ones, friends, and neighbors? These are extremely important questions; they can’t simply be waved aside as being unanswerable. With regard to my own salvation, no less than that of the people around me, it is vital to see the truth of the matter. The last thing I would want to do is defer thinking about it until it is too late to do anything about reconciliation to God, for myself and those I love.
We must not shy away from saying that there is a difference between those who serve God and those who do not (Malachi 3:18). Since this distinction will be so clear on the Judgment Day that it will be unavoidable, we need to be pursuing a more accurate assessment of the difference right now. Rather than dismissing the question by saying, “Only God knows who His people are,” we need to be prayerfully growing in our ability to make this distinction rightly. Yes, we must be humble. But we must also be honest.
“Grant to us, O Lord, to know that which is worth knowing, to love that which is worth loving . . . Grant us with true judgment to distinguish things that differ, and above all to search out and to do what is well pleasing unto thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Thomas à Kempis).