My own personal stance against religious hypocrisy - both my own, and any others who seek to hurt people in the name of God.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How DO We Get to Heaven Anyway

In talking with someone this past week the conversation turned to believing, and who is destined for heaven. When I was younger, in my twenties and thirties, I was very much concerned about this and felt a need to convert everone to my way of thinking. As I have aged I have lost much of this energy and replaced it with quiet thoughts and meditaions on what the Holy Scriptures are actually telling me. The Holy Scriptures are the inspired words of God. By this I mean that God granted wisdom to certain people to write the Holy Scriptures, which reveal who God is.

Mainly, it seems God is telling me to cease my judgments. Cease those concerns of which I have no power to control. This means the things which take place in another's heart. What does this tell me? That I cannot know the true heart of another, and with that being the case, I have no right to say who will, and will not, go to heaven - other than generically. Those whom God has forgiven and written their names in his Book of Life will share heaven with him. Those without that will not. But I have no right to guess names. My proof of this is in the Holy Scriptures. Both the Bible (which incorporates both Jewish and Christian belief systems) and, I believe, the Quran (which is the beliefs of Islam).

For Christ is the end of the law for righeousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them." But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made until salvation. Romans 10:5-10 New King James Version

Before I continue, let me remind those of you who have trouble with the text using "Jesus" instead of "God". To me, the names are interchangable. They are the same person. Jesus is called the "Son of God", which is an unfortunate phrase given that it seems to imply that Jesus is separate from God. God cannot be separate from himself. The phrase is used for a variety of reasons, but I think the most important reason is this:

Now the just shall live by faith: But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. Hebrews 10:38 New King James Version

What I have found in my fifty+ years is that when I don't want something to be true, I won't believe any evidence which supports it. I will deliberately misinterpret facts to suit what I choose to believe. That is what faith is, to me: choosing to believe.

I choose to believe that Jesus is God. God is Jesus. Just as I believe Barach Obama is Mr. President, and Mr. President is Barach Obama. What difference does it matter what name I use if, in my heart, I am still thinking of God? (Maybe some other day I'll go into how important a name is, but I'm trying to demonstrate a point here.) So do not get hung up when I say "Jesus". Remember, to me it is the same as saying "God". And if you believe there is only one God, then the God I call "Jesus" is the same God you call "whatever-name-you-are-comfortable-using". So let's not fight about that. Okay?

In the Quran, I read this just this morning. (I am trying to read between 20-50 lines each Sunday.)

2- The Heifer (Al-Baqarah)

[2:115] To GOD belongs the east and the west; wherever you go there will be the presence of GOD. GOD is Omnipresent, Omniscient.

[2:116] They said, "GOD has begotten a son!" Be He glorified; never! To Him belongs everything in the heavens and the earth; all are subservient to Him.

[2:117] The Initiator of the heavens and the earth: to have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is.

[2:118] Those who possess no knowledge say, "If only GOD could speak to us, or some miracle could come to us!" Others before them have uttered similar utterances; their minds are similar. We do manifest the miracles for those who have attained certainty.

[2:119] We have sent you with the truth as a bearer of good news, as well as a warner. You are not answerable for those who incur Hell.

In both texts I read that God is the Master. God is the Creator. God makes the decisions regarding Heaven and Hell. No where (at least in the Bible, I am early in the Quran, so I can't speak to all it says) am I aware of God telling us to issue condemnation to Hell for anyone. He will decide, and there will be instances, I think, when people of ALL faiths will be surprised at his judgments.

For instance, listen to the words Jesus, himself, spoke in this passage.

Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. When He saw their faith (emphasis mine), He said to him (emphasis mine), "Man, your sins are forgiven you." Luke 5:18-20 New King James Version

This man's sins were forgiven him because his friends had faith. Not only did they have faith, but they had love. What else could inspire them to work so hard on this man's behalf? I believe it reasonable to assume there were some who weren't keen on them taking the tiling apart in order to let the man down. The scripture tells us that "the crowd" blocked their way.

Is that not still true today? "The crowd" would keep people from bringing others in need to God, thus making the effort an effort. And how do we bring people to God? I think we must begin by having our own faith in God.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6 New King James Version

The next step is to actually love the people we would bring to God. Here is something else Jesus said which is interesting. Some have tried to use this to make God out as some kind of mystical Santa Claus. The key, I think, is that the people Jesus is speaking of, are thinking (loving) the way God thinks and loves. This is what Jesus said.

Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. Matthew 18:18-20 New King James Version

Does not God love everyone? Will not God forgive everyone?

"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways," says the Lord God. "Repent and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies (emphasis mine)," says the Lord God. Therefore turn and live!" Ezekiel 18:30-32 New King James Version

I have read "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked", too. I believe this speaks volumes to those extremists - of ALL faiths - who believe they are doing God some kind of favor by killing those they believe are wicked. God doesn't want them killed. He takes no pleasure from their deaths.

So what do we do?

We love people. All people. When you love someone you don't want them killed. You want them to live with God when their time comes to leave the earth. And that becomes your prayer.

It is hard to love a stranger. It is for me anyway. I can care about people who I learn have suffered disaster, but if we have never met in any way, I can't honestly say I "love" them.

I have met people on-line, though, who I have come to care a great deal over. For all I know, all of them are already in good standing with God, living their lives in faith and love. That doesn't matter. It's not for me to decide anyway. There is no way for me to see the definitive evidence. But I continue to love them all, whether they are or they are not. They are my friends now, and that is true no matter their standing with God. I love them. That is enough. They make me happy, and I hope I return the blessing. In my heart, I tell God I love them. And God hears.

Faith and love, not rules, will ultimate decide each of our fates with God. Some of us will be saved because of the faith of others, such as the paralytic man. Others are demonstrating a love and faith for God without even realizing it. This is their fate:

When the Son of Man (God - added by me) comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father (God - added by me), inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.' Matthew 25:31-40 New King James Version

You see, it begins with love. You love someone and you help them. The love you give and show them inspires them to love you in return. This flow of love connects you to God, for God is love.

We don't need to blow up abortion clinics, or insist criminals be executed, or fly planes into buildings, or shoot people over walls. That won't please God. And if we're not pleasing God, we must be displeasing him. Let us care about one another. If we truly love someone, we will act appropriately toward them.

That is what I believe.


Silver said...

and i'll say, AMEN to that!

Bevie said...

Thank you, Silver.

You are the first person to comment on this blog, which means you may be the first person to visit. I am glad I wrote something encouraging for you.

You have a great day!