It's not about getting into heaven

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Thanks to the Mad Priest for linking to this news item:

The chairman of the liberal Christian group Sojourners says he believes that "Jesus coming was not primarily about getting people into heaven."

The Rev. Brian McLaren says he believes that Jesus came "to proclaim the Kingdom of God, which is God's will being done on Earth."

McLaren says that's why congregations in the "emergent church" movement focus more on social action than trying to convert people to Christianity.

McLaren says that if people are "happy being Muslim, or Buddhist or Jewish or atheist," he doesn't think it's right to try to "shoe-horn them out of their religion" into Christianity.

I wish more Christians would say things like this. I think this is relevant in light the experience I just wrote about visiting a church today, where during the service the small children were told that without Jesus they couldn't go to heaven. While I think there is something to be said for the notion that complicated ideas are sometimes explained to children in a different way than how adults conceive of them, it is also unfortunately the case that many adult Christians believe that faith is largely about having a "right belief" and about that belief then being one's ticket to heaven. To me, on the other hand, faith is about one's relationship with God in the here and now--how we can build a better life for ourselves and others, and as a consequence create a better world, by listening to and carrying out God's will on earth. I say, let heaven take care of itself. If there is an afterlife, I would rather let God sort out the details.

5 comments:

Greg said...

I don't believe life is about earning rewards and living “good enough” go get into some place known as heaven somewhere beyond the blue, but that life is about living, serving, and loving simply because our God would have it thus, and because our God does and is these things.

Whatever the afterlife entails (and I tend to believe there is one), I agree with you - that is for God to sort out.

To borrow from Herold Kushner - to say that certain individuals go to a place of eternal torment apart from the presence of God simply because they did not adhere to a certain set of doctrinal beliefs "is not a statement about humanity...but a statement about God...", about a God of limited and conditional love. And, in my mind, that kind of God is one cruel being! (to put it nicely)

Heather said...

I wish more Christians would say things like this, too. I've always found it incredibly arrogant that one religious group will declare that all others are 'wrong.' After all, who are we to judge their encounters with God? How can we tell them that what they've experienced of the divine is false?

Greg said...

I overheard an extremely educated and professional individual speak of his faith a few weeks ago. I was shocked by his black-and-white, fundamentalist views, and his statement about his life purpose was even more shocking. He made the statement: “I’m working to cross over one day to my reward.”

Reward? For what? Believing the “right” things? Have a “right” interpretation of the Bible? Living “right?” Doing the “right” things? Making sure the “good” in one’s life outweighs the “bad?” So, life is a “testing” place? It’s a place of competition in an attempt to “win?” Or, it’s a place to “earn” a spot in God’s presence? In God’s kingdom? That seems to me to be such an unattainable goal! And it seems rather pompous to assert self-adequacy in attaining such a goal.

I’m continually amazed the power this type of belief system has over individuals of all educational, social, and religious levels! And, I’m not surprised to learn that usually these individuals are sure they are doing/believing all the “right” things, and therefore, they are “earning” their “reward.”

My God does not work that way! God’s favor is not earned. A place in God’s kingdom is not earned. We are all children of God, made in the image of God and given by God inherent human worth and dignity as such.

We do not loose God’s favor or a place in God’s kingdom by doing “wrong” things, nor do we “earn rewards” by doing “right” things.

Eileen said...

Amen.

Stushie said...

Funny thing though, Jesus mentions rewards sixteen times in the Gospels...