Well folks, I have been thinking about religions. Every so often, I look around in my beliefs and I wonder whether I believe what I do because I know it’s true, I think it’s true, I’d like it to be true, or – shudder – I don’t know how I came to believe it. That is, I try to be honest about my beliefs and their source.
My religious choice is Protestant Christian, specifically evangelical and fundamentalist as I consider it. I phrase it that way, because more than an occasional person has told me that I do not fit their idea of a fundamentalist. Well and good, I think, although again honesty commands me to consider that while they may be slapping a hasty label on fundamentalists, I should also be careful in how I describe myself, if I mean to be clear in my statements. I am certainly an individualist – I believe that God made billions of specific individuals, and so any generalization makes the mistake of missing His immaculate detail. I also believe that the scope of God can hardly be comprehended by any human, but we may hope to see a miniature of His design by broadening our perception to consider the greatest number of perspectives possible.
It’s usually impossible for me to write a small column, but for practicality’s sake I must try my best, or I shall lose my own attention in my explorations here. So for this article, I limit the matter to the question of judging a person.
One of the biggest problems I find as a Christian, is that non-believers do not understand Judgment. They point to verses which warn us not to judge, then claim that we must therefore tolerate any sort of sin. Some go so far as to say that if judgment is wrong, then even God must not judge; these people end up denying the Sovereign Lord the right to send anyone to Hell, and demand a universal right to Heaven, simply because they choose not to accept any semblance of Justice which might involve a permanent consequence. Others actually have problems with the doctrine of forgiveness. They point to a certain monster of recent or historical evil, and demand that we explain how a truly just God would allow such an evil person access to Heaven, while denying “deserving” humans that happiness. Again, the problem comes from someone promoting their own opinion to a place superior to God Almighty, but it does present the question to believers, and we would do well to sort out why we believe as we do.
Part of the problem is that non-believers do not understand that we must choose to accept Salvation, that it does not come automatically, because God is not a slavemaster or some kind of puppeteer. It also should be understood that Salvation does not come from saying the ‘right words’, but from making one’s heart right with God. Already we see that a perfect judgment is impossible for men, but available to God the Father.
The next part of the problem lies with the character of the resolution; Heaven or Hell. All or nothing, which we instinctively flinch at considering. This is because we all tend to believe in the superstition that we should receive rewards for the good we do, but punishment for the bad. Sound fair, right? Especially if we believe that most people are basically good, and that we mostly want to do the right thing. A full heaven of ‘good’ people, with only a few bad ones, politically correct in their sins, going to hell, like politicians and telemarketers.
The problem with that shows up in the accounting. Let’s say for argument that it’s right to say that most people are good-natured and try to do right. The problem is, every good thing we do is made possible by God. He gave us the means, the talent, the opportunity and the decision to do right. By a balanced measure, when we do right we are just doing what we should be doing, nothing more. That’s not to say that God is not pleased when we do the good things, but it’s not right to say we should be presenting a bill to God for those things which He alone made possible, with some demand that we receive reward for doing what our duty and created purpose demanded.
And that in turn makes our debts that much worse. We already owe God for the blessings He gives to us each day, and the tools and opportunity He gives us for doing right. If we are so ungracious and mean that we also take what He gives us without praise to Him, but we even work wrong with those gifts, how much greater is our debt!
In the end, we all of us are debtors who cannot hope to pay what we owe.
Here is the mystery. God knew that no man born in the line of Adam would pass such a test, and so God worked that into His perfect plan. If any one man could live perfectly, it would condemn all the rest by the measure. So, since all men have sinned, we all stand united in our need. Which brings us to Jesus the Christ. Jesus took upon Himself not only the weight of living the perfect life as an example (made possible by the Grace of God), but also bore our sin in order that none of us should be burdened by it. It is, in the end, utterly impossible to understand unless you accept it. A logic greater than anything Man can design, and therefore the one proof not only of a Sovereign God, but of the compatibility of Love, Justice, Mercy, Truth, Hope, Faith, and Eternity.