Dialogues with a searching soul
The other day I met a young lady. She was ready to be baptized but hesitated. I asked the reason why. She said that she still had trouble with the thought that the loving God would send her parents to Hell simply because they did not believe in Jesus as their savior. She could not get the two notions straight: A loving Jesus who died for her on the Cross and the terrible God who would send her loving parents to Hell. She thought it was not fair for her parents because they did not have any chance to know Jesus!
|Obviously, she was not the first one who had struggled with the question. There had been so many people who wrestled with the same question and there have been traditionally three answers:|
1) Exclusive Salvation Theory:
(1) Thesis: I am sorry but you have to have faith in Jesus to be saved.
(2) Supporting Scripture “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed…… Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”(Acts 4:10, 12). “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life No one comes to the Father except through me.’”(John 14:6).
2) Universal Salvation Theory:
(1) Thesis: I cannot imagine a loving God who would send people into Hell. God will save everyone.
(2) Supporting Scripture: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be, perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).
3) Pietistic Agnosticism:
(1) Thesis: I do not know exactly how God would handle the issue but I trust God that people would be treated fairly at the end.
(2) Supporting Scripture: “The LORD loves righteous and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” (Psalm 33:5)
So, what answer does serve you best?
Statistically, about 10 % of people support the answer 1 and another 10% support the answer 2. The majority of people support the answer 3.
I personally support the answer 3 also. (1) So, we know for sure that those who believe in Jesus as their savior would be saved. (2) We do not know what God would do to those who have never heard about Jesus. (3) However, we know God well enough to say that God would not send people to Hell for something that they are not responsible for.
However, I want to go one step further. I do not know God’s way but I can make an educated guess. It may not be true but you can be a judge and evaluate whether my chain of thoughts are working for you also.
I believe that
(1) Everybody is saved because of the Grace of God which is shown on the Cross. Everybody who has faith in Jesus would be saved because of the salvation given through Jesus by God.
(2) The faith that saves people is such faith that we cannot save ourselves and we need a Savior. Whether you are a Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or followers of other religion, when you confess that your works and your life-long good deeds cannot save yourself in front of God, then God will say to you that God will save you through the saving Grace of God shown on the Cross.
Your appeal: “I knew that my works were not good enough. However, I did not know that the Grace was available to me through Jesus. I have never heard about him. If I knew, I could have faith in Jesus.”
God’s answer: “I know, I know! That is why I will still save you through the blood of Jesus. His blood works for you, too. I do not see your performances but the center of your heart. Don’t you know that I regard dirty thoughts as sexual crime and anger as murder? I bless the King David when he just thought about building a Temple for me (2 Samuel 7:1-17). I gave him the credit and treated him as builder of my Temple.”
(3) Whether you were born before Jesus or not, whether you know personally Jesus or not, it was the salvation work done by Jesus on the Cross that saves you.
For example, we know that Abraham was born before Jesus was born as a human being. However, the Bible says, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). So, Abram was treated as “righteous” by God. How can that be the case even before Jesus was born not to mention to be crucified on the Cross?
Here we have to acknowledge that the effect of the saving action of Jesus goes beyond the limits of time and space. Jesus was not bound by time and space. Another example is found when the Jewish Rabbis asked to Jesus whether he was older than Abraham he answered affirmatively. Here are the conversation between Jesus and Jews.
“Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
“You are not yet fifty years old,” the Jews said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered,” before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:56-58)
One more example is found when Jesus discussed the resurrection with the Sadducees, he also implied that he was with God before the King David was born. It is from Luke 20:41-44.
Then Jesus said to them, “How is it that they say the Christ is the Son of David?
David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: ” ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ‘
David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
Verse 42 can be interpreted in this way: The Lord (God) said to my Lord (Jesus): “Sit at my right hand until I (God) make your enemies (Satan) a footstool for your (Jesus’) feet. So, the King David overheard the dialogue between God and Jesus and called Jesus “My Lord.” This shows that Jesus was not bound by time.
(4) God applies the saving Grace to all humanity beyond the specific time, place, and knowledge. Jesus as God exists eternally and works beyond time and place. The Cross of Jesus can work backwards and forwards in time.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3).
(5) So, any confession that says, “My works cannot save me” is regarded as “faith in Jesus” in God’s court. However, if you insist that your religious practices and works can save you, you refuse to acknowledge God’s Grace and you are still in Hell that you choose to stay.
(6) Here we have to know what the Hell and Heaven are. Heaven is the Kingdom of God, where God rules. So, everywhere God rules as the King is Heaven. My heart, my home, our church, our country, our world, when God reigns, it is Heaven. Hell is where God cannot rule as the King. We are the Kings of our own worlds and we live in Hell. Heaven and Hell are the specific places that we will go after death as the Bible describes. Heaven is filled with beautiful things and Hell is full of fire and brimstone. However, we can experience Heaven and Hell while we are still alive.
(7) God does not send anybody to Hell. God keeps inviting people to come out of Hell and come into Heaven. However, people refuse to come out of Hell and demand comfort in the Hell. It is impossible! One example is in the story of a rich man and a beggar whose name was Lazarus. Listen to the rich man in Hell. “So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “(Luke 16:24) He did not ask to be out of there. He just stayed there and asked water! When Abraham said no to him, “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’”(Luke 16:27-28) He did not say, “Please send me! He wanted to send Lazarus as a messenger!
If this is the case, the purpose of my life is to spread this Good News on earth: “Salvation is available to everybody through God’s Grace because of the blood of Jesus on the Cross.”
The only one condition is to acknowledge that you cannot save yourself. If you insist your own merit and you can work out your way to heaven, you reject God’s Grace and you are still in Hell! It happened in the wilderness. When the people disobeyed to God, God sent poisonous serpents among people and they bit the people. Many Israelites died. Then people came to Moses and asked for help. Moses prayed to God and God answered. “Make a poisonous serpent and set it on a pole and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live” (Numbers 21:8). It is so simple. All you have to do is just turning your face and looking at it. That is an act of faith: Faith in God’s Goodness and Power. However, if you do not believe that simple cure, you would die no matter what. That is why other religions fail all the time at the end. They teach us good ethics and discipline us with good behaviors. Some of them are much better than we are in terms of their deeds and ethics. However, that is it! They try to empty an ocean with a small cup. It simply does not work!
When we accept God as the King, all the problems are solved. Even sufferings and hardships in our lives work together to produce the ultimate good. Think about the life of Moses, Joseph, Paul, and many in the Bible. So, follow God every moment and accept God as your King! Jesus showed us an example. When Adam disobeyed to God, he died. When Jesus obeyed to God on the Cross, God resurrected Him!
You do not have to be a pastor or missionary. You can do whatever you can do best. As a person with your own career you can spread the Good News when you accept God as the King in your life.
One of the expressions of God’s Kingship is to make your church as priority number one in your life. Give tithe means that you confess that money is not your king. God is the King. Coming to church on Sundays means that you confess that your time is not yours. Whole your life is God’s and you believe that now you have the eternal life because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Having fellowship with other Christians and serving a local congregation mean that you accept your limits and ask humbly the support of other partners in faith.
So, I want you to be baptized and become a member of a local church.
I want you to make church as the priority number one in your life and spreading the Good News as the purpose of your life.
Do not worry about your family and friends who did not have opportunities to hear the Good News. Our God will be fair and loving to them. Just worry about those who still need to hear the Good News. Make every effort to sow the seeds, water them, tend them, trusting God’s Grace that make them grow and bear fruits.