you ever wondered why so many religious people, especially
conservative Christians, believe that they are the only
ones going to heaven? Why do we insist on making our
salvation a competitive thing? I'm in, you're out. I
win, you lose. God blesses me, God curses you. Why can't
I feel good about my salvation unless I'm convinced
that you're going to hell?
tells us not to judge others, but this form of judgment
is built into the Christian faith. Christianity thinks
of itself as the only true religion and teaches that
all other religions are wrong. If you don't accept my
savior, you will be lost eternally.
reason for this is quite simple, and quite political.
If it should ever be established that Christianity is
not the only true religion, it would mean that people
do not need a savior. And that would indicate that the
central teaching of the church is false. If this ever
happened, that whole religious tradition would come
apart. So in order to defend its pivotal belief, the
church condemns everyone who does not accept it.
was once teaching a Bible study with a group made up
of people from several churches. The subject of one
session was heaven and hell. I suggested that the idea
of hell was not consistent with the loving God about
whom Jesus taught. After the meeting, a minister's wife
came up to me, obviously unhappy with what I had said.
She retorted, "I could not believe in a God who
didn't send unbelievers to hell!" Her self-righteousness
was quite obvious. I wanted to remind her that Jesus
warned that we would be judged in the same way we judge
others, but I bit my tongue.
I was a teenager, I served as a staff member at a very
religious, very conservative family camp in the Adirondack
Mountains of New York State. The staff was picked for
its superior religious experience and exemplary moral
lives. While I was there, I was recruited by one of
the older counselors to join a prayer group. Our main
purpose was to pray for other members of the staff whom
we thought were "unsaved." When someone asked
me how I knew I was saved, my instant reaction was,
"Well, I'm in a group praying for the unsaved.
So that must mean I'm saved."
world thinks in terms of either/or. If you and I disagree,
either I'm right or you're right, because one of us
has to be wrong. But the spiritual world operates on
the basis of both/and. In the mind of God, conflicting
truths can both be true. Men can be the equals of women.
Jews can be as precious to God as Christians. Vastly
different ways of thinking about God can be equally
valid. Heaven can be home to both sinners and saints.
So when the church engages in either/or thinking, it
is functioning from a worldly, not a spiritual, perspective.
people reject this view of spiritual reality because
it takes away their sense of superiority. But in John
21:21, when Peter asks Jesus about the fate of the apostle
John, Jesus answers, in effect, "That's none of
salvation is not based on whether I get a higher grade
on my end-of-life exam than someone else. It's none
of my business whether that other person is "saved"
or not. That's up to God. Certainly, I need to witness
to others about what makes my spiritual life tick. But
that is far different from demanding that they accept
my beliefs. My primary job is to focus on my own final
exam. The only questions I will be asked are, Did you
love? Did you learn? Did you make the world a little
more like the kingdom of heaven?
John W. Sloat 2004