The parable of the ten virgins used to puzzle me. While the tale is a straightforward story about the potential consequences of letting your guard down and going “off task” for even a little while, the ending, however, didn’t quite seem to fit in with the rest of the narriative.
Here is the parable in its entirety:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Matthew 25:1-12
The part I found puzzling was the phrase “I do not know you.” The virgins were all waiting for the bridegroom, presumably the bridegroom and the virgins all knew each other – how can the bridegroom then say he did not know them?
A similar phrase appears here where people claim that they did all kinds of work in His name and yet Christ states – “I never knew you”:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23
A similar scenario shows up in the parable of the narrow door:
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:22-29
What’s the deal here? We know that
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
and since God is omniscient, this puzzling phrasing must be there for a reason – but what was it?
As it turns out some things can only be learned by experience. The meaning of “I never knew you” becomes crystal clear when you’ve been betrayed by people you thought you knew for years. When people have public and private behavior that is diametrically opposed, who lie to your face about who and what they are, and show not a shred of remorse when you find out the truth, that is what it means to never have known someone.
In the church people that
- publicly talk about Matthew 18 as the absolute law of the land and then behind closed doors claim “it was a public sin so Matthew 18 doesn’t apply”,
- call people “treasured brothers and sisters” and yet are nowhere to be found when they are in their hour of greatest need,
- use procedural tricks and tactics to silence people seeking justice while permitting evil to continue,
- abuse members of their congregation under the guise of “loving” them,
are people one never really knew.
One such person who had this experience outside the church is Trinea Goncza – a long time friend and unwitting victim of sex-abuser Larry Nassar. Trinea first met Larry when she was six years old and over the next thirty-one years considered Larry a close friend that she loved like a family member. Such was her fidelity and trust that in her younger years she defended Larry to other girls that raised concerns about what he was doing. When allegations about his improper behavior first surfaced she continued to stick up for him.
It wasn’t until Larry’s trial reached the sentencing phase that Trinea fully realized that her care for Larry was a product of his grooming and manipulation and wasn’t reciprocated in any way, shape, or form. In her testimony Trinea recounted all the things she thought Larry was doing to help her and how she trusted him as her doctor and her friend. She talked about the roughly eight hundred times he’d put his hand inside her, and what it was like when she realized it wasn’t an old friend performing a medically indicated procedure but a predator seeking gratification. She also talked about what it was like to fail to recognize Larry’s actions for what they were and how she unwittingly enabled Larry to do the same thing to other women.
At the 10:14 mark of her testimony Trinea tells a man she’d known, trusted, and cared for like family for over thirty years:
“I don’t know who you are now,
and maybe I never knew.
Maybe none of us did…“
This is what Scriptures means when it says “I never knew you” – it is describing a complete and utter alienation between the Creator and His creation, where a person stands convicted of an offence so evil that God cannot tolerate that person in His presence. Why? Because only the blood of Christ can cover sin, and at judgement time every person that stands before God without faith in Christ will be seen as the evildoers they are and banished to eternal torment.
On Friday, Jan. 19 2018, in Lansing MI during the fourth day of Larry Nassar’s sentencing, Trinea said goodbye and closed the door on a relationship with a man she’d known most of her life with these words:
“Goodbye Larry, may God bless your dark broken soul.”
On judgement day the sentencing of the condemned will sound remarkably similar, but without hope or prayer for their souls. Their eternal destiny will have been decided, and there is no appeal of God’s righteous judgement.
Trinea’s full testimony follows. A word of warning the content is explicit.